We're studying the 11th chapter of Hebrews, which deals with the subject of faith. This is a very practical subject, and our study should be much more than just educational. Your faith in God is the bottom line in your ability to deal with difficulty, and we can't get much more practical than learning how to deal with difficulty.
In verse 1, we saw faith described: faith is the assurance or foundation of things hoped for, it is the conviction of things not seen. Faith defined is: "understanding and assent to a proposition."
Faith is the one and only way in which we can please God. Trust pleases God. We can understand this, aren't you pleased when someone trusts you, when someone has faith in you? Sure your are, and all to often we're not worthy of some one's trust, because we're unfaithful. But God is absolutely trustworthy, and the person who draws near to God must believe that he is who the Bible says he is. This includes all his attributes, and we must believe that he rewards those who diligently seek him. There is a blessing, a reward for living a life of faith. Those who walk with God are rewarded both temporally and eternally. That God does reward those who seek Him is demonstrated very clearly by the lives of Noah and Abraham. They stress the blessings to which faith leads.
We can see in the first three examples of faith in Hebrews 11 the progress of faith. Our first illustration of faith was Able in verse 4, and this shows us the entrance into the Christian life, the beginning. We place our faith in God's substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Then he moves into a discussion of Enoch in verse 5 and the walk of faith - the continuance, the fellowship. Thirdly he comes to Noah in verse 7 who illustrates the work of faith - the obedience. In Noah we see one who worshiped God, walked with God and worked for God.
Some people only get as far as the first step, they come to God by faith in Jesus Christ. Some get to the second step, and they begin to walk with God. And then there are Noahs who not only believe God and walk with Him, but are committed to work for God, to do whatever God calls them to do:
Hebrews 11:7 (NKJV) By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
"By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen" - the words here "being divinely warned" are from the Greek word chrematizo, it is used frequently of divine communications. This same word is used in:
Matthew 2:12 (NKJV) Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.
God spoke to them and he spoke to Noah. Hebrews 11:7 says he was, "warned of things not yet seen" - this speaks of the contents of God's revelation to Noah regarding the flood:
Genesis 6:5-13 (NKJV) Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the LORD said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them." 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. 9 This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
Verse 8 says, "Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD" - this is the first time in Scripture that we find the word "grace". Why did God give Noah grace? Because he sovereignly chose to! If Noah had deserved it, it wouldn't be grace. Grace is God's free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment. We must realize that God is sovereign in the distribution of His grace.
Genesis 6:9 says, "Noah was a just man" - this speaks of his position. It also says that he was. "perfect in his generations" - this is speaking of his practice, he was mature in his faith. Noah walked with God, he lived in communion or fellowship with God, he had an intimate relationship with God. He knew God's voice.
Genesis 6:13 says, "God said to Noah..."I will destroy them with the earth." In verse 17 he says:
Genesis 6:17 (NKJV) "And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die.
Building the ark involved tremendous faith on behalf of Noah. Why? Because God "warned" him, or gave him revelation, concerning coming judgment. You may say, "Well, that would take some faith, but that does not seem any different than any other example of faith that I have heard." The difference is that God warned Noah about things "not yet seen." It takes mind boggling faith to believe God concerning something that has not yet happened, and has never happened before.
In the world order, seeing is believing. Unless the matter is visual, doubt remains as to its reality. But this is not the way it is in the Kingdom of God. Faith triumphs over sight, giving substance to unseen things. Noah stands as one of the first examples of this. Until Noah, there is no record of rain upon the earth, no waters falling upon the earth from the heavens. Noah had never seen a flood or rain, but he believed God.
It had never rained on the earth before:
Genesis 2:6 (NKJV) but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.
The earth was like a large terrarium, there was a vapor canopy that blocked out the sun's rays and that's why people lived so long before the flood. The first mention of falling rain is made in connection with the flood, when a torrential and uninterrupted rain continued for forty consecutive days. Nothing like this had ever been seen before. In addition, there had never been a flood, particularly a global one. Noah, in every sense of the word was "warned by God about things not yet seen."
Human reason was altogether opposed to what God had make known to Noah. It had never rained - so what is rain? It seemed unlikely that God would destroy the whole human race - what about love and mercy? The judgment was 120 years away - that's too far in the future for me to worry about. When Noah preached, no one believed his message. The natural reaction to 120 years of preaching without any results would be to doubt the message. To believe in God amid fellow believers is relatively easy. But to have no one to lean on except God is the true test of faith.
But against all these carnal objections, Noah believed God and "moved with godly fear, prepared an ark" The words "moved with godly fear" are from the Greek word eulabeomai. It is used only here and in:
Acts 23:10 (NKJV) Now when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks.
The commander's fear caused him to act. Eulabeomai means: "to act cautiously, to reverence, to stand in awe." The noun form is used in:
Hebrews 5:7 (NKJV) who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear,
The idea here being that he feared God, so he acted cautiously.
Noah feared God - he reverenced God and stood in awe of him. Noah believed God's word; and in the warning given him, he considered the greatness, the holiness and the power of God. He knew God was faithful, and what He promised would come to pass, he reverenced God's word. Because Noah feared and respected God, he built the ark as God told him to do. This is a key ingredient to our faith. We cannot say we fear and respect God and then disobey Him.
How about you? Do you stand in reverence and awe of God's word? Do you take his promises and threatening seriously? Does God's word cause you to act? It did Noah, he "prepared an ark". When warned by God of an impending flood, Noah took immediate action upon the basis of that word. He did not need a body of experiential knowledge to support the warning. No geological or astronomical information was needed to buttress the Word of God. Faith is superior to earthly knowledge. It exercises a more powerful constraint upon the individual, and produces a consistency that cannot be duplicated by the world. Noah believed God and he got to work building an ark. He dropped everything and spent 120 years building a boat - somewhere in Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which was miles away from any ocean.
Genesis 6:14 (NKJV) "Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.
What would you do if God told you to build a gigantic ship in the middle of the wilderness? One of the greatest acts of faith was when Noah grabbed his ax and headed out to cut down a tree.
Genesis 6:15 (NKJV) "And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.
A cubit ranges anywhere from 17.5 inches to 22 inches. If we use the shorter measurement, we find the ark was 437 feet long, 73 feet wide and 44 feet high. That would be about the height of a four story building. It had 3 decks with a total deck area of 95,700 square feet, and 1,396,000 total cubic feet. That is the equivalent of 522 railroad box cars. That's more than 20 standard basketball courts of deck space. That is a big boat, especially if you have to build it.
Interesting note: for centuries men built ships in various proportions; but once British naval machinists found the formula for the dimensions of the battleship Dreadnought, all naval construction has followed its proportions, since they were found to be scientifically perfect. The dimensions of Dreadnought were exactly the same as those of the ark.
Genesis 6:18-21 (NKJV) "But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark; you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. 19 "And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20 "Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. 21 "And you shall take for yourself of all food that is eaten, and you shall gather it to yourself; and it shall be food for you and for them."
Can you imagine this? Noah was also commanded to bring two of every living thing into the ark with him. Many people say, "That is impossible. There is no way that Noah could have brought two of every animal onto the ark." The space needed today to provide for two of every species on earth would equal 150 box cars. Since Noah had the space of 522 box cars, it is obvious that he had more than enough room for his family, the animals, and the food they would need as well. The point is, it could be done, and it was done by Noah through faith in God.
Genesis 6:22 (NKJV) Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.
Noah was a man of amazing faith. Even though it staggered the imagination to conceive what God had asked him to do, he believed God, and he believed what God said would happen. Some of us run out of endurance in a week, but Noah hung in there for 120 years.
A lot of parents give up in disciplining their children, because they don't see instant results. We need to trust God:
Proverbs 22:15 (NKJV) Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.
Many of us quit witnessing to our friends, because we don't get results. Trust God and obey Him:
Romans 1:16 (NKJV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
We so quickly turn from faith to doubt when we don't get results. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Trust Him and do what he tells you to do.
We can just imagine all the laughing and jeering that his neighbors did as he was out there building that thing. Do you like being laughed at or joked? No, none of us do. And so too often we fail to do what God has told us to, to avoid it. We fail to pray or witness, we're ashamed, and our faith often fails. But Noah obeyed God and built an ark. For 120 years he reverenced God's word.
Now let me ask you a question: "If Noah had not acted to build the ark, would he have perished in the flood? Yes! Then was it his own efforts which preserved his life from death? No! He acted in faith on what God said. James put it this way, "faith without works is dead." What does that mean? If Noah would have failed to obey, would that have meant he wasn't God's child? No. We saw in Genesis 6:8-9 that Noah was a just man.
James 2:26 (NKJV) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
What is dead faith? James 2:14-26 is the only New Testament passage which speaks of a dead faith. Please notice that the distinction in James is between dead faith and living faith, not false faith and true faith. Let's look as James' climax to this book:
James 2:26 (NKJV) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
James draws an analogy between dead faith and a dead body. If you were to find a dead body, you would assume that it had died, which would mean It was once alive. James can conceive of a "dead faith" as having once been alive. A person's faith, like his body, can die. James compares faith to the body and works to the spirit. Does that seem strange to you? Would you put faith with the spirit and works with the body?
James' point: works are actually the key to the vitality of faith. James' analogy shows he is writing about the necessity of having works if our faith is to stay alive. Remember James is writing to Christians. Unless we act on our faith and live it out, our faith rapidly decays into dead orthodoxy. Good works are the spirit which animates the entire body. Without such works, our faith dies. But this does not affect our eternal destiny, but it does affect our temporal life and the preserving of it from judgment.
James is clearly teaching that works are necessary for salvation - physical preservation. He states his argument in verse 14:
James 2:14 (NKJV) What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
Then he illustrates his argument in verses 15-16:
James 2:15-16 (NKJV) If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
The fact that the preserving of life lies at the heart of this illustration is apparent. Can the fact that a man holds correct beliefs and is orthodox save him from the deadly consequences of sin? Of course not! That is like giving your best wishes to a destitute brother or sister, when what they really need is food and clothing. It is utterly fruitless. Neither will your faith do your physical well being any good if you live in sin.
James 2:17 (NKJV) Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Dead faith is belief without action. If Noah had not acted on what he believed he would have died.
James 2:25 (NKJV) Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
Rahab acted on what she believed and by doing so saved her own life.
Do you remember what I told you several weeks ago about how to increase your faith? 1. Knowledge of God. 2. Applying what you know. If we don't act on what we believe, our faith will die.
James 2:22 (NKJV) Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?
It is by our works that our faith is made mature.
Hebrews 10:39 (NKJV) But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
To turn from faith, to not trust God will cost us. We are to believe to the saving or preserving of our lives. Noah didn't draw back, he believed God, and he acted on his faith and preserved his life.
Three Results of Noah's Faith:
1. The Salvation of His House - "prepared an ark for the saving of his household."
The word "saving" is the Greek word soteria. Soteria is never used in Hebrews in the sense of deliverance from Hell. Soteria in Hebrews speaks of physical deliverance. Here in verse 7 it is used in the sense of physical deliverance - from the flood. Noah physically saved his family from drowning by his faith.
Men, listen up! Noah's faith preserved his entire house from destruction. The Bible says nothing about his wife's faith, or his children's faith. It was his faith that saved them.
We have become so infatuated with individualism that we find this hard to understand. But in the ancient world, when the head of the family acted, he did so for the whole family. All through the Bible we see God dealing with families based on the faith or unbelief of the head of the family. In Joshua 7, we see this in a negative way:
Joshua 7:1 (NKJV) But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the LORD burned against the children of Israel.
It was Achan who sinned and his sin affected all of Israel.
Joshua 7:24-25 (NKJV) Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, "Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day." So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.
Because of Achan's sin, his whole family died. That is very sobering. Men, do you realize that your sin affects your family?
Later on in the book of Joshua, Joshua says that he and his house will serve the Lord.
Joshua 24:15 (NKJV) "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
In the New Testament, we see how the actions of the father affect the whole family:
Acts 16:30-34 (NKJV) And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31 So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.
The father responds in faith, and so does his whole household.
Acts 18:8 (NKJV) Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.
If these verses say nothing else, they say this: Men, as the head of our households we can protect our families from the destruction of sin by living in fellowship with the Lord.
Exodus 20:5 (NKJV) you shall not bow down to them (idols) nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,
What is this verse saying? Do the children suffer because the father sinned? I think so. But it's not that because the father sinned the children suffer, I think this refers to influence. The father influences the children. If he practices a certain sin, the chances are that they will also.
Noah believed God and saved his family from destruction. Men, are you protecting your family by your godly life?
1 Timothy 4:16 (NKJV) Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
2. Noah condemned the world - "by which he condemned the world".
"By which" - goes back to faith for its antecedent. Noah condemned the world by his faith.
2 Peter 2:5 (NKJV) and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;
Peter says that Noah was a "preacher of righteousness", what was his message? judgment is coming! He preached his sermon with his life, every tree he cut down, every plank he sawed, every nail he drove preached a sermon that said, "judgment is coming, believe God for refuge."
He rebuked his world just because he was a man of faith. The world doesn't believe God, so a person who does, rebukes it just by believing Him.
Alsibeadees, who was a brilliant but rather wild young man at Athens, used to say to Socraties, "Socraties, I hate you, because every time I meet you you show me what I am. There is a danger in goodness, for in the light of it evil stands condemned."
Just living a life of faith is a rebuke to the world.
3. He became an heir - "became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith."
Hebrews consistently uses the idea of inheritance of something yet unrealized. For the original readers of this letter, "righteousness by faith" was something yet to be realized.
What Noah inherited was, in fact, the new world after the flood:
Genesis 9:1-3 (NKJV) So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 "And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. 3 "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.
It's all yours! And the Hebrew believers were about to inherit the new heavens and new earth - the New Covenant - if they remained faithful. If they did not remain faithful, they would die in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Believers, we have already received our inheritance - we live in the New Heavens and Earth. But we can also save our families from judgment, and we can condemn the world of sin if we, like Noah, will endure in faith, trusting God and acting on what we believe. A living faith is a victorious faith:
Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
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