Thursday, December 22, 2016

Hebrews Chapter Eleven: 4

“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. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 11:4-5).

One lived and one died but both live. Sometimes our pilgrimage has many years, sometimes few years; sometimes when it looks like it will be many it is shortened, sometimes when it appears that it will be shortened it is lengthened. Abel was a man of faith; Enoch was a man of faith – one was killed and the other was taken so that he wouldn’t see death. God was pleased with both of them, both of them lived by faith and not by sight. One was murdered because of his faith; the other did not see death because of his faith. Both trusted God, both are now with God.

Paul writes that “whether we live or die we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8) and that he and his companions “…prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2 Cor. 5:8-9). Abel died, Enoch lived, but both are present with the Lord – both live in Christ.

The writer of Hebrews makes the point that Jesus came to free us from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15); while this deliverance was not consummated until the Cross, and while it will not be fully expressed until the resurrection of the righteous when all creation will be delivered from the bondage of decay (Romans 8:18 – 25), the men and women of Hebrews Chapter 11 lived in deliverance from the fear of death “so that they might obtain a better resurrection” (Heb. 11:35); the mystery of the Cross works backward and forward and who can understand it?

Faith is connecting with the unseen reality of God and His Kingdom and His Word; when our lives correspond to the unseen God we live by faith and not by sight – our natural eyes are prone to deceive us, the eyes of faith make us aware of real reality, not passing- away reality. There is dying and there is transformation in the life of faith in the true and living God – it is not either one or the other, it is both. We die with Christ and we live with Christ, we are buried with Him by baptism into His death so that we might be raised in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans Chapter 6). “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me…” (Galatians 2:20).

The life of faith is a life of translation and transformation. We present our bodies, our entire selves, to God as living sacrifices, we reject conformity to this world, and we ask God to transform us by the renewing of our minds so that we may live in the will of God (Romans 12:1-2). Abel made an offering, we make an offering of ourselves. We can make an offering of ourselves because Christ Jesus offered Himself and we offer ourselves in and through Him.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit,” (2 Cor. 3:17 – 18). The Spirit of God translates our lives upward into Jesus Christ, our hearts, our minds, our souls…and one Glorious Day our bodies (Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:13 – 14).

Regarding the contrast between Cain and Abel, F.F. Bruce writes, “…sacrifice is acceptable to God not for its material content, but insofar as it is the outward expression of a devoted and obedient heart. Let Cain gain the mastery over the sin which threatens to be his undoing, and his sacrifice will be accepted as readily as Abel’s was.” Bruce quotes Calvin, “Abel’s sacrifice was preferred to his brother’s for no other reason than that it was sanctified by faith…But how did he [Abel] obtain his acceptance, save that his heart was purified by faith?”

Our text informs us that without faith it is impossible to please God.

Contrary to certain “apostles” of the “faith movement” in our own time, the way of faith is a way of suffering, of rejecting the world’s values and way of thinking, and of identification with the suffering of Jesus Christ for the sake of the Gospel and others. The way of Biblical faith is confession that we are strangers and pilgrims here, it is an anchoring of our hearts in the heavenly city of God (Hebrews 11:9 – 11; 14 – 16). We are not interested in time kept on a Rolex, we are interested in the God of time.

Contrary to others who isolate the Gospel, and hence faith, to the intellectual realm, to a series of propositional statements; the way of faith is holistic, enveloping spirit, soul, and body – animating our thoughts and emotions and reaching to the deepest recesses of our beings – we are sons and daughters of the living God and our spirits cry out, “Abba Father!!!!” (Romans 8:15 – 16; Galatians 4:1-7).

We may be living in an earthly realm of decay, but we are not people of decay. Jesus tells us that the one who believes in Him will never see death and has “passed out of death into life” (John 5:24ff; 8:51). Paul writes that we have been translated into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13) – are we living in the awareness of our translation from death to life? Our translation is a present reality – are we living in that reality in Jesus Christ?

Are we offering ourselves as Abel? Are we living in translation as Enoch?     

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