Let’s start by reading Hebrews 11:1-6 (ESV):
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Hebrews 11:5 mentions Enoch. Enoch is in Genesis chapter five. In Hebrews 11:5 it says, "By faith, Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found because God had taken him." Now before Enoch was taken, he was commended as having pleased God.
I'm sure you've spent a lot of time meditating on the life of Enoch. We're not actually told a whole lot about the life of Enoch. He is listed in the genealogies, one of my favorite parts of Genesis. If you go by the timeline of the genealogies, he lived approximately 400 years before Noah. Noah is recorded to be his great-grandson.
Now we know that in the days of Noah, what was the earth like? It was very wicked. So what do you think? Do you think it was that different during the days of Enoch? In fact, we know that Enoch was set apart because he was someone who walked righteously. That should tell us he was unusual for his time. Otherwise, it would really not bear separating him out and giving him special mention.
But Enoch was someone who walked in so much faith that God seems to have spared him from physical death. He just walked him right on up into the presence of God. That's a pretty great story. But before he was taken, he was commended as having pleased God, it says. Now, listen, don't miss this because the author of Hebrews is going to build on this idea of having pleased God. He says, so before Enoch was taken, so during his lifetime Enoch pleased God. Let me follow that up with verse six. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith, it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
If it is true that without faith, it is impossible to please God, what is the inverse of that statement? With faith, it is possible to please God.
Let that hit you the way that it should. With faith, it is possible to please God. Do you believe that's true? Because often when this idea comes up someone will say, "Oh no, all of our righteousness is filthy rags." Jen, did you not read that verse? All of our righteousness is filthy rags. How do you reconcile that verse with this verse? What kind of righteousness is being referred to in the statement that all of our righteousness is filthy and rags? That is a reference to the offering that Cain has made.
All of our earning before the Lord is filthiness and rags, but listen: with faith, it is possible to please the Lord. Do you know how I know? Because Enoch did. Don't you want to be a person who pleases the Lord?
And you understand this. You understand this just in our simple human relationships with one another—a child desires to please a good parent, not to earn. A child already knows that they have a good parent’s love and affection. They have faith in the affection of the parent, and because they trust the love of the parent, their response is joyful obedience out of gratitude, a desire to bring pleasure to their parent.
But what if it's a child who doesn't trust in the love of a parent? What does that unbelief in the love of the parent translate into? A desire to earn through obedience. It generates a legalist. You can draw a direct line between unbelief and legalism every time, and you can draw a direct line between belief and joyful obedience out of gratitude that pleases the Lord. That's what sanctification does, it turns us into those who want to please Him. Enoch pleased Him so much he just took the longest walk ever and walked right on out of here. That's like the best Old Testament mic-drop ever, Enoch just walking on out of the room.
In Better, a 10-session, verse-by-verse study of the Book of Hebrews, Jen Wilkin explores how God “provided something better for us” in the person of Jesus Christ (Heb. 11:40).