Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Synergism: Opening The Door to God’s Indwelling Power

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Synergism: Opening The Door to God’s Indwelling Power

Chapter Twelve
The Relationship of Faith to Spiritual Empowerment

“4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. 5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:4-6).

Faith is a decision that grasps onto intangible realities. Faith is a blind man staring blankly into the darkness listening for the still small voice of God in the whisper of the wind, smelling the scent of God through fragrance of a flower carried gently upon a breeze, and seeing that which is invisible to his eye knowing with surety that God is real and that there must be a Creator if there is a creation. However, although we are all spiritually blind to God’s existence, real faith is not content to mere intellectual assent to a probability. Real faith must, and will, reach out to try and grasp the intangible transcendence of God; to touch God or to be touched by His immanency.

We must lay some historical background here in order to understand what is being emphasized in this text. Jesus said he would come again. Many believers assumed it would be during the first century of the Church. In II Timothy 2:17-18 we read of two men - Hymenaeus and Philetus, “who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; overthrowing the faith of some.” False teaching already existed by 67 A.D. leading people to believe they had missed the second coming.

In I Thessalonians 4:13 Paul prefaces his statements regarding the rapture of the Church and the second coming of Christ intending to correct an abnormality in doctrine – Ignorance. “But I would not have thou ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which no hope.”

Christ and the apostles taught the imminent (any moment) return of Christ for his Church. By the time of the writing of the epistle to the Hebrews (about 68 A.D.), most of the first Christians were growing old. Christ had not returned and many of the Jewish believers were giving up hope and returning to Old Covenant Temple practices. (The Temple was not destroyed until 70 A.D.). Hebrews 11:4-13 gives an important message by the example of four patriarchs to the professing Christians of this era; true faith does not give up hope. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises” (Hebrews 11:13a). This theme will continue through all the examples of faith in chapter eleven.

“And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise” (Hebrews 11:39).

In Hebrews 11:4-13, we have the examples of four men and one woman who saw eternity through the eyes of faith and “embraced” the “promise” that God offered for them to possess. These five people saw certainty (“substance”) sustained in God’s immutability and rested their eternal hope in God’s promises (Hebrews 11:1). These are five examples of people whose faith became the proof (“evidence”) of the reality of the invisible things of God. They all moved in the direction of their expectations of God.

1. Abel’s continuing testimony of faith was that he maintained pure worship according to God’s ordained pattern (Hebrews 11:4).

We are told in Genesis 4:2b that “Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” God had already established that man’s approachability to Him must be preceded by faith in the death of a substitute. Abel maintained purity of this faith/belief and worship by strictly following this pattern directed by God. This pattern has never changed.

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

Cain on the other hand abandoned this idea. Cain tried to approach God with the fruit of the cursed ground and the produce of his cursed hands. Why was Abel’s offering “more excellent”? It was “more excellent” because it was offered based upon continuing faith through strict application of God’s instruction.

This is the continual warning of Hebrews; “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation (2:3). Abel is the positive example of continual faith. Cain is the negative example of reprobation in abandonment of God’s ordained way thereby exemplifying falling away from true faith.

“If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:6).

By Abel’s continuation in the practice of faith, manifested by the sacrifice he offered, he obtained witness (God’s testimony) “that he was righteous” in the substitute portrayed by his offering (Hebrews 11:4).

“21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-26).

There was no difference between Abel in Cain in relation to their being sinners (Rom. 3:22-23). The difference was in their faith. Real faith never gives up on the promises of God. Real faith sees those promises as certainty (Hebrews 11:1).

The word “testifying” is from the Greek word martureo (mar-too-reh’-o). The interesting thing about this word is that it is in the Present Tense. In other words, God is still giving witness to the superiority of the sacrifices (“gifts”) of Abel, and by that continuing witness of God, Abel, though now dead, continues to speak to us as well (Hebrews 11:4). Abel was righteous, not on the basis of his character, but based on his gifts or sacrifices manifesting the object of his faith. God keeps that kind of testimony alive, even though the original testifier has died.

“And by it” (his continual faith) Abel continues, even after death, to bear witness to the “certainty of God’s promises” (11:1). He continues to witness, but had he quit at any time in his life as did Cain, who after having his offering rejected, “went out from the presence of the Lord” (Gen. 4:16); if Abel had done that, He would bear no continuing witness. The idea of the text continues the emphasis that the only way to approach God is found in and through Jesus Christ as the substitute sin bearer.

2. Abel is our example of continuing faith in the purity of worship of God, while Enoch is our example of continuing faith in the purity of walk in fellowship with God (Hebrews 11:5-6).

“21 And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: 22 And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: 23 And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: 24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Geneses 5:21-24).

Enoch walked with God for 365 years of his life and God took him home without death. Why did God bless Enoch with a blessing no one else in history has ever been blessed with? The answer is because he “pleased God” by maintaining perfect fellowship with God, he “walked with God.” “He pleased God” (Heb. 11:4), this is the testimony God gives about Enoch.

We often speak of giving testimony for God. Telling people about Who God is and what He is doing is what people of faith do about the God we love and serve. Yet, how often do we consider the fact that God bears testimony about us; glory!

Hebrews 11:6 continues to exemplify the faith of Enoch with the all encompassing, time transcending statement, “But without faith it is impossible to please God.” Was Enoch sinless (Romans 3:23; 5:12)? So what made the difference? God says his faith made the difference. Enoch, like all after him that wanted to please God, “came to God.” He believed God was who He said He was. By faith Enoch believed God would reward those “that diligently seek him.” The example then is in the answer to the question, what do you suppose Enoch (a man of faith) did as the result of that belief? He diligently sought God until God was so pleased with him that God just translated him right off of the face of the earth.

The words “diligently seek” are from the Greek word ekzeteo (ek-zay-teh'-o). It refers to an insatiable craving to know God. Perhaps this definition is why only one man in the history of the world has the testimony of Enoch.

3. Noah is our example of continuing faith in the purity of work or service (Hebrews 11:7).

God continues to maintain the testimony of real people of faith. In Genesis 5:29 God says of Noah, “And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.” The word “Noah” means rest or comfort.

In Genesis 6:9 God says of Noah, “These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” Like Enoch, Noah “walked with God.” In Genesis 6:22 God says of Noah, “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.”

According to Hebrews 11:7, God tells us that Noah, “moved with fear” of God, did what God told him to do. Why was Noah’s service of faith so great an example of continuation in service? In Genesis 7:4 God said to Noah, “I will cause it to rain upon the earth.” That does not seem like such a remarkable statement to us today. What makes it remarkable is to understand that, according to Genesis 2:5, it had never rained before and here you have a man building a giant ark for floating a zoo and preaching that God was going to destroy mankind by causing it to rain.

“5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. 6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground” (Genesis 2:5-6).

Can you imagine the ridicule Noah got during the 100 years he spent building this giant circus boat. Yet he did not quit “according to all that God commanded him, so did he” (Gen. 6:22).

4. Abraham is our example of continuing testimony of faith in the purity of witness (Hebrews 11:8-19).

God had given him the promise of a land and a people (nation). Can you imagine stopping Abraham after he had left his home and family at Haran? “Where are you going Abram?” I don’t know, I am going someplace where I will receive an inheritance.” Who told you that and how will you find it if you don’t know where it is? God told me! He will show me! Which God do you worship Abram? I worship my God!
The world would shake their heads in amazement over a man wondering around in the desert looking for a land he does not know where it is, believing in an unknown God. Yet Abram continued looking (vs. 9). Why? Because faith saw certainty in the promise of God (Hebrews 11:10).

Abraham’s continuing testimony of faith in purity of his witness is twofold: land and people (11-12). Did Abraham quit believing God for the son he was promised? He waned but never quit. He was 99 years old and Sarah was 90 years old when Isaac was born. Jacob would be Isaac’s son sixty years later. By faith, the land of promise was Abraham’s possession (11:9), although he never possessed it except by faith.

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