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. The purpose of this verse, in connection with the conclusion of the last, is to show that the Scripture record does imply faith in Enoch, though there is no mention of it there by name: it is of necessity involved in the phrase, εὐηρέστεσε τῷ θεῷ . The expression in the Hebrew, "walked with God" (be it observed), involves it equally; so that the argument is not affected by the quotation being kern the LXX .
Faith of the antediluvian saints.
The apostle, having gone to the first page of the Bible for the foundation-doctrine of faith, has only to turn the leaf to find his first historical illustrations.
I. THE EXAMPLE OF ABEL . ( Hebrews 11:4 ) In what respect was Abets sacrifice "more excellent" than Cain's?
1. Some answer—Because its materials were more valuable, and also more carefully selected. Cain presented an oblation el vegetables, taking the first that came to hand; while Abel offered an animal sacrifice, and the choicest which iris flock could supply.
2. Others judge that Abel's sacrifice was "more excellent" because of the living faith of which it was the expression. He worshipped in spirit and in truth; whereas Cain's offering was that of a formalist and a hypocrite.
3. But the true view, we apprehend, must go deeper than either of these. Abel's sacrifice was better, not merely because he brought it in faith, but because his faith led him to select an offering which was in itself more appropriate than that of Cain. "The Lord had respect unto Abel" for what he himself was, as reflected in what he gave ( Genesis 4:4 ). His offering, we may presume, was an act of faith resting upon the Divine testimony regarding "the seed of the woman," and the necessity of atonement by blood. But Cain, in presenting only fruit, declared thereby his disbelief in the gospel promise, and his repudiation of the appointed way of salvation. So, God bore visible witness to Abel "that he was righteous" ( Genesis 4:4-12 ); and the first martyr has in consequence become distinguished as "righteous Abe!" ( Matthew 23:35 ; 1 John 3:12 ). Indeed, Abel still speaks to the whole Church by his faith. He teaches us that we can only approach God through the propitiation of Christ, and that in pleading the one propitiation we must bring also the sacrifice of "a broken spirit."
II. THE EXAMPLE OF ENOCH . ( Hebrews 11:5 , Hebrews 11:6 ) What a contrast between the end of Abel's earthly life and that of Enoch! And what a pleasant break in the melancholy monotone of Genesis 5:1-32 ., "And he died," are the sweet words used regarding Enoch's removal: "He was not, for God took him" ( Genesis 5:24 )! Here we have:
1. A statement regarding Enoch ' s translation. ( Genesis 5:5 ) His faith is represented as the reason on account of which he was transported to heaven without tasting of death. His wonderful removal was the reward of his singularly holy life; and that, in turn, was the fruit of his faith.
2. An argument in support of this statement.
III. THE EXAMPLE OF NOAH . ( Genesis 5:7 ) The name of Noah is associated with a stupendous catastrophe, the faith of which, while it was "not seen as yet, "brought deliverance to himself and his family, and constituted him the second lather of the human race.
1. Noah ' s faith was severely tried. The Deluge, of which he was forewarned, was an unprecedented event, and could only take place by a miracle. Then, for more than a century after the warning was given, and. indeed until the very day when it began to be fulfilled, there were no premonitions of its fulfillment. During all that time, too, Noah had to labor at the gigantic task of constructing the ark, amid the jeers of an ungodly world.
2. His faith bravely triumphed. The victory is seen in his "godly fear," and his unquestioning obedience. It appears in his invincible perseverance as the builder of the ark, and. as "a preacher of righteousness." It is reflected in the confidence with which he obeyed the Divine summons to enter the ark while the sky was yet cloudless. And Noah's triumphant faith "condemned the world;" for the event showed that the doom of its unbelief was just.
3. His faith was richly rewarded. It brought him the highest honor. It was the means of confirming his already eminent piety, and of certifying his possession of "righteousness." It made him an "heir of God."
LESSONS . In Abel, we see faith as the condition of acceptable worship; in Enoch, as the root of godliness; in Noah, as the principle of separation from the life and destiny of the ungodly. Again, Abel's faith condemns the spirit which denies the necessity of an expiatory atonement; Enoch's, the spirit of secularism, positivism, agnosticism; Noah's, the spirit which stumbles at the possibility of miracles.
The impossibility of pleasing God without faith.
"But without faith it is impossible to please him," etc. The fact that Enoch walked by faith, and that his life was well pleasing to God, suggested to the writer this general axiom on the indispensableness of faith in order to secure the Divine complacency. Two principal observations will bring before us the chief teaching of our text.
I. THE APPROACH OF THE SOUL TO GOD IS ESSENTIAL TO OUR PLEASING HIM . "Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God," etc. Having asserted that apart from faith man cannot please God, the writer proceeds to show this by affirming that he who comes to God must believe certain truths concerning him, thus clearly implying that we cannot please God without coming to him.
1. Coming to God implies distance from him. The unrenewed soul is far from God by sin. Sin against him generates suspicions concerning him, dread of him, and so banishes the soul far away from him. Like the prodigal son, the sinner wanders away from the gracious Father "into a far country." The expression, "them that seek him," also suggests that the seekers have not the consciousness of his presence and favor; they do not always realize his nearness unto them, or they would not need to seek after him.
2. Coming to God is the approach of the soul unto him. As the implied distance from him is not local but moral, so the coming to him is not physical but spiritual. It is the soul drawing near to him in thought and desire, in affection and devotion. The penitent thus comes to him with confession and prayer for pardon. The poor and needy, with petitions for succor and supply. The thankful, with warm tributes of gratitude and praise. The pious, with lowly loving adoration.
3. This approach of the soul to God is gratifying unto him. That his creatures, created in his image and for fellowship with himself, should stand aloof from him in distrust, or suspicion, or indifference, or by reason of absorption in other things, is painful to him. His fatherly heart yearns for the confidence and love of his children. He welcomes the first approach of the penitent sinner to him, even as the father of the returning prodigal saw him "while he was yet afar off, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." He is pleased when his children regard him with assured confidence and warm affection, and come to hint in their necessities and satisfactions, their sorrows and joys, etc.
II. THE EXERCISE OF FAITH IN GOD IS ESSENTIAL TO OUR APPROACH TO HIM . "For he that cometh to God must believe that he is," etc. Ebrard says wisely concerning this faith, "Precisely the faith that there is a God, and One who will reward those who seek after him, found place in Enoch, and could find place in him. Far front intending to ascribe to Enoch the New Testament faith, the author defines the faith here in its general form as it applied to the time of Enoch." The faith which is essential to the approach of the soul to him is:
1. Faith is, his Being. "Must believe that he is." And we have the amplest anti firmest ground upon which to base this article of our faith. The Bible says "that he is;" the universe witnesses to the same great truth; and human consciousness confirms the testimony.
2. Faith in his entreatableness. "That he is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek him." This implies faith in his accessibility; the belief that we may approach unto him; that our prayers will reach his ear. He hears the sigh of sorrow, the moan of misery, and the whispered aspiration of the pious heart. He is perfectly acquainted with the godly "soul's sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed." He not only hears prayer, but he also answers it. The teaching of the sacred Scriptures on this point is both full and explicit ( Psalms 37:4 ; Psalms 1:1-6 . 15; Matthew 7:7-11 ; Matthew 18:19 ; Matthew 21:22 ; John 15:7 ; John 16:23 , John 16:24 ; James 1:5 , James 1:6 ; James 5:16-18 ; 1 John 5:14 , 1 John 5:15 ). The testimony of the godly is no less clear and decisive. "He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek him." This means more than that the exercise of prayer to God in itself exalts and enriches, calms and cleanses the praying soul. The reflex benefits of prayer are undoubtedly very great and precious, but their existence depends upon the belief that God hears and answers prayer. Prayer would lose its reality and become a mere pretence, offensive to all honest souls, if we had not faith in God as "a Rewarder of them that diligently seek him." But the seeker must be diligent; he must be earnest. "Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." The prayer must be fervent and persevering, or it may fail of its reward. "When prayer mounts upon the wing of fervor to God, then answers come down like lightning from God."
Thus we see that "without faith it is impossible to please God." Our subject shows:
1. The necessity of cultivating and exercising faith in God.
2. The advantages of believing prayer to God.—W.J.
Faith needed to please God.
I. IT IS , THEN , POSSIBLE TO PLEASE GOD . Some there are who care nothing whether he be pleased or not. God's will, God's delight in the obedience of men, never enters into their thoughts. They live to please themselves. They can even understand that some object may be served by trying to please other men. And yet those who live for self-pleasure are sure to be disappointed. God has meant our pleasure to come through first of all pleasing him. The great law of man's being is that he should serve the purposes of God, and he can only serve those purposes by finding out what they are, and taking God's means to carry them into effect. If, then, it is God's will that we should please him, he will surely show us what to do and how to do it. There ought to be in our hearts a desire to please God. We are not without the wish to stand well with our fellow men, to have their good word. How much more, then, we should desire to become acceptable to him who is perfect goodness! If Enoch pleased God, we may do it. And the first thing to be considered is, not whether it be difficult or easy to do it, but whether it be possible.
II. How GOD IS TO BE PLEASED . Remember always that, in the writings of apostles and evangelists, when God is spoken of Jehovah is meant. Jehovah as over against the gods of heathendom. Their priests taught that it was possible to please them, and showed how the thing was to be done, by offerings of all sorts, and by adding constantly to the wealth of their shrines. The offerings in themselves were reckoned good; and well they might be, for they made many priests rich. Jehovah also received offerings, but to him the offerings had no value except as expressive of intelligent obedience. The offerings were for the sake of men rather than of God himself. He must be pleased by something different from mere gifts of what he has himself created. And here the writer gives us one of the essentials towards pleasing God. Apart from faith we cannot please him. There are many elements in the character that is pleasing to God, and one element is made prominent at one time, another at another. We know that Enoch must surely have been a loving man, for without love it is impossible to please God. Here the important thing was to insist on his being a believer. Idols could be approached without faith, for they were really not approached at all; no heart of man ever came into living contact with them. But of God there was no image; the worshipper had to believe that there was a real existence all unseen. Suppose for a moment that we had set before us for search and discovery an object perceptible by the senses. Before beginning the search, should we not be wise in assuring ourselves on the following points?
1. The real existence of the object.
2. The probability of finding it.
3. A corresponding reward for the possible toil of the search.
There has been faith on these points which has had no rational basis, and of course has ended in disappointment; e.g. the enthusiastic searching for the philosopher's stone. But here is an object, the object supreme of all—God, the Fountain of being and blessedness; and this object cannot be known by the senses. There are many so-called arguments for the existence of a God, but men who think that they therefore really believe in the existence of a God are self-deceived. Believing in the existence of a Being to whom this name of God is given must be an act of pure faith. Men must say, "I cannot believe otherwise; I cannot believe the contrary." Then to this must be added the practical impulse to come in contact with him. Note here exactly what is demanded, as the ordinary version fails to give us quite the meaning. He that comes to God must believe in God's existence, and that when men seek him out and come to know him in actual experience and service, he gives them most real, substantial rewards. For the seeking out diligence is of course required, but diligence is not the quality primarily referred to. "Seek out" is only a more suggestive way of saying "find."—Y.