Bible students know Hebrews 11:1-40 as the "faith chapter." The purpose of the inspired writer was to strengthen the sorely tried and faltering faith of his readers. He reminds them of the nature of faith, surveys the Old Testament examples of faith, and assesses the value of faith. The Hebrew Christians must remember that we serve God, endure afflictions, and please God by faith.Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. (Hebrews 11:1-3)The chronicle of Old Testament believers in Hebrews 11 has been called "faith's hall of fame," and those included in it are the "heroes of the faith." Some may question the validity of this description, seeing that it is the nature of faith to glorify not the believer but the One believed and trusted.i
In Hebrews 12:1, the Old Testament people of faith are referred to as a cloud of witnesses. The idea is not so much that they observe our race but that their lives bear witness to us of the power and possibilities of faith.
As we enter our subject, we ask the reader to note that over half of the "faith chapter" is drawn from or connected with the book of Genesis. This calls to our attention an aspect of Genesis too often overlooked. Everyone is quick to agree that Genesis is a literary gem. As history it alone is the book of beginnings. In the history of redemption it is the first chapter. As theology it is the seedbed of Bible doctrine. But we must not overlook this fact: inasmuch as Hebrews 11 is rightly called the "faith chapter," so the book of Genesis may with equal propriety be called the "faith book" of the Bible.
Genesis reveals the very bedrock of faith. Genesis 3:15, known as the protoevangelium or "first gospel," sets forth the Object of saving faith. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel. In Abel we read the first recorded example of faith in the promised Redeemer. In Abraham we see the doctrine of imputation and justification by faith so clearly revealed that he is known as the father of the faithful (see Romans 4:11, 16), a prototype of faith in God. Many of the saints described in Genesis give us examples of service to God rendered by faith. Others demonstrate the enduring quality of faith in the face of opposition and suffering. Can anyone doubt the accuracy of calling Genesis the "faith book" of the Bible? Certainly other New Testament books besides Hebrews look to Genesis for confirmation concerning the subject of faith. Consider Romans 4:1-3 and Galatians 3:13-29.
Let us now briefly note the connection between the "faith book" and the "faith chapter." Comparing the two, we see that Hebrews 11 gives a veritable survey of Genesis chapters 4-50. Indeed Hebrews 11 follows the exact chronology of Genesis.Little wonder that a noted author once said concerning the writer of Hebrews 11 that "The Book of Genesis was obviously in his hand, or in his heart, while he wrote: for he appeals to the transactions there recorded, in the very order, and often in the very words, of Moses."iiGenesis 4 - Abel - Hebrews 11:4
Genesis 5 - Enoch - Hebrews 11:5
Genesis 6-10 - Noah - Hebrews 11:7
Genesis 11-24 - Abraham - Hebrews 11:8-16
Genesis 21 - Sarah - Hebrews 11:11
Genesis 27-28 - Isaac - Hebrews 11:20
Genesis 49 - Jacob - Hebrews 11:21
Genesis 50 - Joseph - Hebrews 11:22
We might also point out that even though the record concerning Moses in Hebrews 11:23-29 comes from the book of Exodus, the writer of Hebrews may still have been thinking of Genesis inasmuch as Moses, who was conspicuous for faith, was the writer of the book of Genesis.
Now we come to the special concern of this brief study. Thus far we have connected twenty-six of the forty verses of the "faith chapter" with the book of Genesis. As the chart above reveals, the individuals mentioned in Hebrews 11 begin with Abel in Genesis 4. However, we must carefully note two things: (1) Genesis 4 is not the first chapter of the Bible mentioned in Hebrews 11, and (2) Abel is not the first believer mentioned in Hebrews 11. This great "faith chapter" begins with a reference to Genesis 1, and we who believe the Bible from the very first verse are at the head of the list of believers recorded in Hebrews 11.Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.Is the reader shocked? Who is set forth as Exhibit A in God's chronicles of faith? It is not the patriarchs of Genesis 4 and following, rather it is we who believe in Genesis 1!
This amazing truth is well stated by Dean Burgon:But with them [i.e. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph], the Holy Ghost proposes to associate us. Moreover, He gives us the place of honor. Before mentioning one of their acts of Faith, He mentions one of ours. We come first, then they. And the particular field in which we shine out so conspicuously, the special province which is assigned to us, that portion of the inspired Narrative wherein you and I are supposed to show a degree of undoubting faith which entitles us to rank with those "Fathers of old time"-is found to be the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God."iiiHow, you ask, can we be listed with believers who built an ark, forsook homes, conceived children in old age, and saw the miraculous? What is our faith compared to one who turned his back on a palace, preferring to be numbered with slaves?
The answer is this-the faith that embraces God as Creator is really the bedrock of all other manifestations of faith. In his sinful imagination, man has created a Pantheon of gods, but true faith recognizes the Creator alone as the living and true God. While the world worships demons, we by faith in Genesis Chapter 1 worship the God who spoke the universe into existence.Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights. Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created. (Psalm 148:1-5)Do you doubt the assertion that Genesis 1 provides the bedrock of all true faith? Consider the ministry of Paul. When he preached the gospel message in places where Genesis 1 was unknown, he proclaimed the work of God as Creator before speaking of His work as Redeemer.And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked: The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked. And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech ofLycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them. (Acts 14:8-18)To know Christ as Savior we must first know who He is. The Lamb of God who died for our sins is the Creator of heaven and earth.
Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man 's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:22-31)In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3)To believe in the Bible from the very first verse requires that we follow Christ "without the camp." The one who believes in the literal Genesis account of creation finds himself out of step with his age. Such a one refuses to interpret history, science, ethics and indeed the very meaning of life through the paradigm of Darwinism. The child who believes in Genesis 1:1 is derided by his secular schoolteachers. The Ph.D. who prefers Moses over Darwin and Lyell is scorned and written off by his peers. No matter how profound his scholarship, he is not taken seriously.
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Colossians 1:16-17)
Let us never see faith in God's Word as a small thing. Was it a small thing when Elijah stood before an apostate king, 850 false prophets, and a wavering nation to boldly declare that Jehovah alone is God? Is it a small thing when we, who live in an age that worships the creation, unflinchingly declare the glory of the Creator? Is it nothing to rebuke the madness of those who would replace the infinite Architect of this universe with the "fortuitous concourse of atoms"? Those who think it small have never been in the number of those who tried it!
Before closing, allow me to address those who wish to be known as Christians yet dare not confess faith in the literal creation account. You wish to be seen as a person of faith, yet your faith stumbles at the gate. You falter where true faith must begin. Faith is based on God's Word, yet you refuse to credit His very opening statements!
To such ones, my advice is, Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Does not the teaching of the "faith chapter" cast a suspicious shadow over your claims of faith? Can a faith that does not start right end well? May God help you to believe the Bible from the very first verse!In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)____________________
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God... (Hebrews 11:3)
i This is why salvation by "grace alone" is received by "faith alone." Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace (Romans 4:16).
ii John William Burgon, Inspiration and Interpretation, p. 23.
iii Ibid., pp. 23-24. Emphases his.
[Ron Crisp is the retired pastor of First Baptist Church, Independence, Kentucky.]
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