In the preceding chapter Paul wrote about true persevering faith by which men are united with Christ and draw not back but believe to the salvation of their souls. In this chapter He speaks of the NATURE, WORKS, and RESPONSE OF FAITH and proceeds to illustrate it with examples of Old Testament saints.(Vs. 1) A two-fold definition of faith (or the nature of faith).
1. "Faith is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for." What are the things hoped for? Eternal salvation and deliverance, perseverance in Christ, eternal glory, and fellowship with God. Faith is the GROUND, FOUNDATION, and SUPPORT of these things. Because of our confidence in God and His Word, faith gives us possession of these things beforehand. Faith gives them reality to us. They are certain, but our faith gives us confidence (Rom. 4:17-25; Acts 27:21-25).
2. "The EVIDENCE of things not seen" (II Cor. 4:18). Things which were done in ETERNITYthe council, covenant, and purpose of God. Things which were done IN TIMEincarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. Things which ARE DONE NOWintercession, providence, work of the Spirit. Things IN THE FUTUREresurrection, judgment, eternal glory. These are all unseen, but faith gives the heart proof and evidence of these unseen things. His Word, His Spirit, His work in us are all in all (Rom. 10:17; Heb. 13:5-6).
(Vs. 2) These elders were men of faith who lived in ancient times--Abel, Job, Enoch, Noah. These men were justified and accepted by their faith and not because of their deeds. Paul mentions this to take from these Hebrews any esteem for the elders because of WHO they were and WHAT they did. They were justified by faith; and unless we have the same faith, it is useless to boast of our elders (John 8:39).
(Vs. 3) A man of faith UNDERSTANDS how all things were created. The visible creation was formed from nothing. It all came into existence by the command of our God, Who made all things out of nothing and gave it form as it pleased Him! (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-18.)
From Verse 4 through the rest of the chapter, Paul gives examples of faith among the Old Testament believers before the flood, from the flood to Moses, from Moses to the prophets, kings, and judges.
(Vs. 4) Abel offered the sacrifice of blood because HE BELIEVED GOD! Abel, by nature, was not more excellent than Cain; but HIS SACRIFICE WAS because it typified and pointed to Christ. It was a lamb, the firstling of the flock; it died and shed its blood. Cain's offering was one of works which had no reference to Christ at all. Abel was not righteous by nature, nor by his faith, but BY CHRIST to Whom his offering looked.
He received the witness of this acceptance in his conscience by the Spirit of God. He is dead, but HIS FAITH AND EXAMPLE are yet spoken of. In these two men the world's two religions are pictured salvation by Christ or salvation by human works! (Gen. 4:3-5.)
(Vs. 5) Enoch was caught up to heaven, not temporarily as Paul, but like Elijah, there to continue. He was changed from mortality to immortality without dying. Several things are seen here:
1. The close relationship between this life and glory. He walked with God on earth, and one day he didn't return. God took him to glory (Phil. 1:21-23; II Cor. 5:1-8).
2. Old Testament believers knew, expected, and enjoyed eternal life through faith, just as we do (Rom. 4:3).
3. He went to heaven as some shall at the coming of Christ, without dying (I Cor. 15:51-52).
4. The resurrection of all believers is shown. He went to glory body and soul! (I Thess. 4:13-18; I Cor. 15:42-44.)
(Vs. 6) Without faith it is impossible to please God, for those without faith are without Christ (Rom. 8:8; Eph. 2:12-14). Christ is our peace, our righteousness, and our sanctification! Someone said that in Verse 6 are the two fundamental truths of religion.He that cometh to God in Christ:
1. MUST BELIEVE THAT GOD IS, not only that there is a God but that God is Who He says He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as revealed in the blessed Scriptures. He is holy, eternal, unchangeable, love, mercy, and truth. He is the God of creation, providence, and grace.
2. MUST BELIEVE HE WILL FULFILL EVERY PROMISE AND PURPOSE toward believers in Christ Jesus. There is but one way to seek God, and that is in Christ. True faith actually believes and is confident that God will give us all that Christ purchased (Rom. 8:31-34; I Cor. 1:30).