Closing the Gap – Week 4 Study Guide

By January 28, 2018 Small Group Study Guide

<<Download as PDF>>

Heb. 11:4-6, “4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. 5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Commentary on Hebrews 11:4-6

Cain and Abel were two sons of Adam and Eve. Cain, the first-born son, was a farmer. Abel, the second-born, was a shepherd. Cain and Abel each worshipped God by presenting offerings related to their work. However, Abel offered God the greater sacrifice. God accepted Abel’s offering but he rejected Cain’s. Cain then became angry over the situation and murdered his brother Abel. In a sense, Abel is the first martyr because he was killed for His faith. You can read more about these two brothers in Genesis 4.

Why did God approve Abel’s sacrifice? Because of Abel’s faith. God’s divine favor is connected to faith and it is impossible for us to please God without it (Heb. 11:6). It’s interesting that the OT doesn’t directly describe Abel as being righteous, it simply tells us that God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s. The connection of faith with righteousness comes from Heb. 2:4. “Because the righteous one will live by faith, those who exhibit faith are considered righteous.”[1] Abel’s faith continues to speak to all generations through the pages of the scripture as an example of a life of faithfulness.

Enoch is another example of someone who walked with God faithfully. He was taken up to be with the Lord; he was spared a physical death. Only two people in the Bible are said to have been chosen by God to escape physical death: Enoch and Elijah. Enoch appears to have been given this privilege because he was a man who walked faithfully with God (Gen 5) and pleased God (Hebrews 11:5).

The word walk implies a steady, progressive relationship and not just a casual acquaintance. To walk with God is the business of a lifetime; it’s not something we do halfheartedly and not just the performance of an hour.[2] Walking with God is all-consuming; it means that we don’t live a two-story life where we compartmentalize our spiritual life from temporal things. All that we do is done faithfully to and for God (Col. 3).

The common thread between Abel and Enoch is Faith. Faith in God. Without this faith, it is impossible to please God. The life of faith always pleases God. No amount of good works can compensate for lack of faith. Faith is the only thing that gives God his proper place. As one theologian puts it: It glorifies God exceedingly, because it proves that we have more confidence in His eyesight than in our own.”[3]

Heb. 11:4-6, “4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. 5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

  1. Is God so picky that he cares about the kind of sacrifice one brother offers over another?
  • What is true worship? What does it look like?
  • What role does faith play?
  • What do these two brothers teach us about worship and the role faith plays in it?
  • Just like Abel, we still have opportunity to have a life that continues to “speak” long after you are gone. How so?
  • How can you close the gap today and make this kind of life a reality for you today?
  1. We don’t know much about Enoch, but we do know the most important thing about his life: he walked with God!
  • Take some time and think about what it means to walk with God? What does it look like?
  • The truth is that walking with God is much more than a thought or a statement. It requires actions and attitudes that demonstrate your confidence that his ways are the best ways and life with him is the best possible life. How do we live this kind of life?
  • It’s likely Enoch’s walk wasn’t perfect; it’s more likely his walk was authentic.
    Does this thought encourage you? Why?
  • Because of your faith, life, not death, has the final word about you!
    What can you do to live today with the end (eternal life) in mind?
  1. It is impossible for us to please God apart from faith. Why is this?
  • Discuss the following statement: When we trust God, it will show up in love for others. Love God with all of who you are, and love others as you love yourself. This is very simple and enormously difficult.
    • What does loving God and loving others look like in your own life?
    • Do you have a hard time living like this? Why?
    • How does knowing that God expects this kind of life give you strength to close the gap on faith and love?
  1. Atheists and agnostics would say that it is irrational for believers to claim that God exists. How do we know that God exists? Why is their belief wrong?
  • Why is what we believe important?
  • In what tangible ways can you come to God as he actually is—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—the God who can save you, help you and have a relationship with you?
  1. Many people come to God earnestly seeking rewards, but what exactly has God promised?
  • What is relationship with God worth?
  • Are there things that you’ve pursued that are just poor substitutions for what your heart truly desires? How did you come to this realization?
  • Are there things you need to change to position yourself to find your greatest satisfaction in God? What are those things? How can others help you?

 

[1] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Heb 11:4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 38). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2196). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Leave a Reply