Pleasing God (Hebrews 11:5–6)

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One of the most helpful books I have read is called People Pleasing: How Not to be an Approval Junkie by Lou Priolo. Priolo helps us to see that ultimately we have a choice between two options: pleasing people or pleasing God.  Of course, the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, for if we please God then many times the consequence is that others are also pleased. For example, if I am tempted to steal and yet my desire to please God kicks in then the potential victim will be pleased that I did not help myself to his car! If I choose to please God in my marriage then my wife will be blessed, she will be pleased. I think you get the point.

But this matter of pleasing God does sometimes have negative consequences. This was the case with the Hebrew believers. If they chose to please the Lord by trusting the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour, then inevitably many of their family members, friends and social connections would be very displeased. Yet the author urged them to please God nonetheless. As he says, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” They were being called upon to please God by believing God. And that same call comes to you and me.

Because the writer was aware of the struggles these believers were facing, he writes this forty-verse chapter to illustrate from history those who were commended by God because they believed Him and were therefore pleasing to Him. He begins with three men from the antediluvian period: Abel, Enoch and Noah. This is important for a few reasons.

First, this is doctrinally very significant. As we have seen, the faith spoken of here is with reference to faith in Christ. The people of God are one. They always have been. Jesus Christ is and always has been the means of our redemption. Everyone who has ever been saved and who will ever be saved is saved by faith in Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament era, they were saved by looking forward to the coming of Christ. In the New Testament era, we are saved by looking back to His finished work.

But equally important, whether one was saved before the incarnation or after the incarnation, we all are looking forward to full and final salvation.

Second, practically this speaks to the order of the Christian life. That is, it begins with being reconciled so as to acceptably worship God (Abel). This then results in a life of walking with God (Enoch). And our worship and our walk are intimately related to our working and witnessing for God (Noah).

Third, pastorally this ancient legacy of faith would be of great encouragement to these believers living in the first century AD. And it continues to encourage us in the 21st century. The faith endures and therefore our faith endures. Regardless of the unique challenges that we think we face, this is the victory that overcomes the world: our faith in Christ (1 John 5:4).

“The writer’s determination to focus attention sharply upon the pleasing of God, rather than on the singular experience of translation, is indicative of his pastoral motivation.”1

In this study, we will focus on vv. 5–6. These verses form a unit. The former leads naturally the latter. Though of course v. 6 is the whole point to which the writer is driving, it is uniquely connected to the account here of Enoch. We will do so under three major headings.

The Record of Pleasing God

First, let us consider the record of faith: “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (v. 5).

Who was Enoch?

There are two men named Enoch who lived during the antediluvian period. The first one we read about in Genesis 4, and he was the firstborn of Cain (Genesis 4:16–18). Cain was responsible for the founding of the first city, and he did so through his son Enoch.

From this line, many developments were initiated in the world, such as music, architecture, metallurgy and industrial development. Enoch, in the words of Augustine, was characterised as being of “the city of man,” the spiritual sphere where man is central. And therefore this city is doomed for destruction. Enoch was the historical representative of this ungodly sphere, this ungodly line.

But the Enoch before us was of the line of Seth, the godly line of Adam (Genesis 5:1ff). He was of the city of God, the spiritual sphere where God is central and where man serves Him. It is the city destined for glory. And it is the city that figures so significantly in Hebrews 11–12.

Jude interestingly identifies this Enoch as being “the seventh from Adam” (Jude 14). I am of the persuasion that the Jude who wrote this epistle was the disciple of the Lord who is called “Judas (not Iscariot)” (John 14:22). Jude himself understood the discomfort of being mistakenly identified as a scoundrel, and so he is at pains to distinguish Enoch, the seventh from Adam, from his ungodly cousin.

A Glorious Interruption

When this Enoch was born to Jared, Adam was 622 years old. Adam would live another 308 years and would die some fifty years before being reunited again, in heaven, with Enoch at the latter’s translation at the young adult age of 365 years (Genesis 4:23–24)!

What a joy it must have been to watch his progeny walk with the Lord. What a joy for Adam (and Eve) to see their great, great, great, great, great grandson believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Enoch pleased God by his faith in Christ and his great, great, great, great, great grandparents were pleased as well.

Enoch, a Prophet

We are told by Judas (not Iscariot) that Enoch was a prophet, or that he at least at some point in his life “prophesied” (v. 14). The Genesis account is silent about this, but under inspiration Jude recounts that Enoch had preached to an ungodly culture, and doubtless this included an appeal for repentance and an announcement of God’s judgement.

According to both the genealogy of Genesis 5 and Jude’s epistle, it is clear that the pervasive evil that God would destroy by the flood was very present in Enoch’s day. It would continue for another six hundred years. “What is striking about Enoch is that he stood so much above the corruption of his age.”2

Pause and Ponder

It cannot be emphasised enough, that the spiritual warfare of that day is no different (in essence) than of our day.

There are those of the city of man and those of the city of God. There are those who follow Christ and those who do not follow Christ. The reason that people were living so ungodly in Enoch’s day was because they were rejecting the gospel promise (Genesis 3:15). They were not living by faith in the promised Christ, and therefore their works were therefore evil. This is always how it is.

Yet Enoch believed God in Christ. He therefore faithfully and fearlessly prophesied of God in Christ. He warned the ungodly that judgement was coming. They did not pay heed, and judgement came. The old order was “de-created” and a new world was “re-created.” And this was precisely what was about to happen in the era in which Hebrews was penned.

Those of Israel, who rejected Christ, were getting worse and worse. Judgement had been prophesied. Opportunity for repentance was given. The nation had largely ignored their “Enochs” and their world was about to be destroyed. As Revelation 6 reveals, their world was about to be “de-created” followed by the inauguration of a newly “created” and constituted heaven and new earth (Revelation 21).

Enoch was not prophesying of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, nor was he prophesying the end of human history. Rather, Enoch was prophesying of the flood. Yet what Jude is saying is that the situations are similar, and that regardless of how far removed we are from the days of Enoch chronologically, spiritually there is no difference.

Do you see what a perfectly fitting example Enoch was to them? And to us? We too are living in an ungodly society surrounded by those who do not trust in Christ Jesus. Though surrounded by the faithless and therefore the ungodly, nevertheless, like Enoch, we too can walk with God. We must walk with Him.

Enoch’s Walk of Faith

Enoch is most famous for the fact that he “walked with God; and was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24) If Abel was the first Christian to die and to go to heaven then Enoch was the first Christian ever raptured to heaven. There would only be one more in the biblical-historical record: Elijah.

The picture is that of Enoch being in continual communion with God. What a wonderful experience and what a wonderful testimony to emulate. It is precisely what these Hebrew believers needed then, and what we need now. In New Testament terminology, Enoch was one who was characterised as abiding in Christ.

Hebrews quotes from the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) which says, that Enoch “pleased God.” Walking with God and pleasing God therefore appear to be synonymous. Those who abide in God please God by doing so. God is pleased when His children abide in Him. Let that sink down into your soul. Believer, you can please God!

Further, from v. 6 (which, I believe, we should see as inseparable from v. 5) we see that to “diligently seek” God is also synonymous with pleasing, and therefore walking with, God. We can conclude that to walk with God calls for diligence in seeking Him. If we desire to walk with God then we must be diligent to seek God. And this will please God. Are you seeking to walk with God today?

Finally, there is one other term that rounds out what it means to walk with God. Verse 6 speaks of “he who comes to God.” The phrase could legitimately be translated, “he who draws near to God,” or “he who approaches God.” It is the same terminology used in Hebrews referencing coming to God for salvation (4:16; 7:25; 10:1, 22; 12:18, 22). This is precisely what the writer has been exhorting them to do throughout the epistle: come to God through Christ, and keep on coming to Him.

What it All Means

Putting this all together, we can conclude that Enoch was commended, and is to be emulated, because he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as His Saviour. He drew near to God in and through Christ—and he did so continually. That is, he diligently sought Him. This became his way of life. It became his walk. His Christ-centred, Christ-dependent walk was pleasing to God. Such was a wonderful record and one that you and I should seek to have. As Kendall notes, “The writer to the Hebrews is trying to get us to believe God if nobody else does and to believe His word if nobody else does.”3

Applications

What can we learn from this?

First, let’s learn that believing on Christ is not a once-off experience. It is a lifestyle. It is a walk. If we have truly believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, then we will diligently continue to do so. To be saved by Christ launches us on a course of continually seeking Him. Jesus said, If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31–32).

Salvation is more than a fire insurance policy approach to Christ. It is not about simply being delivered from the penalty of sin. If you have truly believed on Christ, you will continue to believe on Christ as your Lord and Saviour. This means that you will look to Him and will continue to lean on Him, and that you will live for Him while loving because of Him. At the risk of being ignored because of repetition, those who continue in His Word do so in fellowship with others who continue in His Word. There will be no lone rangers in heaven.

Second, we should learn from Enoch what “walking with God” looks like. It looks like being Christ-centred.

I used to be very confused by some of the books that I read when it came to what it looks like to walk with the Lord. Though I deeply longed to walk with God, I found myself often disillusioned as I was sadly reminded by my failures that I am still a sinner.

The mystical experience of sensing God’s presence moment by moment was so elusive. And, sometimes, the harder I tried, the more discouraged I became. I tried to “let go and let God,” but that was no use. In fact, it seemed in that scenario that, when I did let go, God did not do His scripted part. I guess no one told Him. How then could I ever walk with a holy God? What was the key?

The key was not having an experience, but rather the key was found in what I had already experienced: the gospel. The key is Christ, for the Bible teaches that, in Christ, I have been blessed with all blessings in heavenly places. I have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness (see Ephesians 1:6; etc.).

I am not saying that we do not have wonderful times of experiencing God’s presence and peace. What I am saying is that this is all the by-product of looking to Christ and believing on Him hour by hour, day by day, and with each passing moment. In other words, walking with God is inseparable from a gospel-centred life. Keep preaching, to yourself, the good news of what God has done for you in Christ Jesus. When you do so, you will find yourself driven to learn about Him and to live for Him and to love like Him and to look like Him.

Yes, pray. Yes, have your daily devotions. Yes, be an actively engaged church member. But do all of these motivated by the gospel.

Third, we should take encouragement that it is possible to be godly in the midst of an ungodly culture. Perhaps I should say that it is possible to walk with God, to look to and live for Christ in the midst of those who are opposed to Him.

Perhaps at this point we can pause and reflect on the reality that the first Enoch was doubtless better known, more famous probably than the Enoch who was the “seventh from Adam.” The world applauds those who make the cultural headlines, but it usually ignores those who walk with God. Yet God seemingly ignored the first and so loved the second that He took him to heaven!

Don’t be swayed by the fear of man. Don’t be a people-pleaser. Rather be a God-pleaser. For, as Paul wrote, “God has not given to us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). We must testify to God’s promise in Christ. We must warn unbelievers to flee the wrath of God yet to come!

Keep Walking

It is true that, increasingly, our culture seems to be moving further away from the gospel. I say “seems to” because I wonder how close we ever really were to the gospel as a society. Yes, there was a time when more people went to church, and then on a regular basis, than now, but did they really grasp the gospel? I doubt it. I think what we are seeing now is simply that the religious façade is being dropped. We are rather being exposed to the ungodliness that was all along under the surface. In many ways, this is to be welcomed, for the ungodly are now being outed rather than hiding behind the walls of the church. The point remains though: Enoch remained faithful, and so can we. So should we. So must we. “Enoch came to God regularly, daily, believing that he was alive (God ‘is’) and that he responded positively and abundantly to those who sought him (God is a ‘rewarder’)…. There was consequently something of an ‘unseen world’ about.”4

Keep looking to Christ. Keep believing on Him. You, like Enoch, will be vindicated one day.

Keep Witnessing

Along with this observation, we should also note that to walk with God means that we will not shy away from declaring the whole counsel of God, including His wrath and judgement. Enoch “prophesied” of judgement precisely because He believed God. “By faith” Enoch proclaimed what God had revealed. If we believe Christ then we too must be willing to proclaim the whole counsel of God.

Just as these Hebrew believers were to declare what Jesus had prophesied in the Olivet Discourse, so we are to declare the gospel and the eternal judgement that awaits all those who do not believe the gospel.

Finally, to walk with God should be a multigenerational experience. As noted earlier, though Jude says that Enoch was “the seventh from Adam,” Adam in fact had two family branches. This Enoch was of Seth, not of Cain. An ungodly line came from Adam (that of Cain), and a godly line came from Adam (that of Seth). Looking at the latter we can be encouraged that subsequent generations from Adam did walk with God. Many generations diligently sought God in Christ. God always has His people. Do what you must so that the next generation will also follow Him.

Prompted by Parenthood?

In Genesis 5 we read, “Enoch lived sixty five years, and begot Methuselah. After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years” (vv. 21–22). This language may suggest that it was only after the birth of Methuselah that Enoch began to walk with God. It is certainly the experience of many that, upon the birth of a child, many parents begin to seek the Lord. The new sense of deep responsibility for another has been a catalyst in the past for parents turning to the Lord.

But regardless, the question you and I must answer is, am I walking with God, today? If not, why not? And if not, why not today?

The Requirement for Pleasing God

The requirement for pleasing God is delineated in v. 6: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Clearly, it pleases God to walk with Him. And clearly the only way to walk with Him is by faith. And clearly this faith is a Christ-centred one. Therefore, faith is the way to please Him. But what is involved in this faith? What was required of Enoch, and what is required of us?

A Confession of Faith

The verse tells us that “he who comes [“draws near,” “approaches for forgiveness”] to God” must believe that “He is,” and that He “rewards” those who “diligently seek Him.” That is, we must come to Him believing that He is God and therefore that He is good. As Brown says, “Those who, like Enoch, wish to ‘draw near to God,’ must encourage their faith to give constant expression to two great facts about God—his existence and his generosity.”5

The word “is” is a form of the verb “to be.” It reminds me of when Moses asked the Lord whom he should tell the children of Israel was sending him. The Lord said, tell them, “I AM” has sent you: “I AM WHO I AM”—Yahweh.

This is not merely a confession of our belief that God exists, but rather it is akin to the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4. As Lane notes, “Enoch is represented as a man who turned to God in terms of the confessional stance outlined there.”6

In other words we are not called upon to believe in God merely ontologically, but we are also to believe in God specifically. This belief is a doctrinal confession that we believe in God’s self-revelation that He is self-existent, self-sufficient, the Creator, the faithful and holy God. In other words, our confession of belief in God has content. The life of faith is not one of faith in faith, but rather faith in the God of the Bible.

As F. F. Bruce highlights,

It is not belief in the existence of a God that is meant, but belief in the existence of the God who once declared His will to the fathers through the prophets and in these last days has spoken in His Son. Those who approach Him can do so in full confidence that He exists, that His Word is true, and that He will never put off or disappoint the soul that sincerely seeks Him.7

Today we hear all sorts of “Oprahisms” about believing in any God that you want. You might as well believe in Santa Claus in such a system of belief. As Richard Phillips helpfully comments, “Anyone who comes to God needs to have straight just who God is…. Faith must first agree with God’s affirmation and turn to him as the only true God.”8

 

Confidence in Him

This almost goes without saying, but if our confession of faith in God is sincere, then our confidence in Him will be strong. We will be convinced that He is God and therefore He is good.

We are told that not only must we believe that “God is”—not only must we have a correct confession of faith arising from God’s self-revelation—but we must also “come to Him” with the confidence that “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” In other words, our confession of faith must be more than merely theoretical. It must arise from conviction of our confession. Of course, this is initially and ultimately rooted in God’s grace, for saving faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8–9). Yet the believer is to then faithfully steward this gift. We are to grow in our faith. By learning and then obeying God’s Word, we will grow in our conviction that God keeps His promises.

The just are those who live by faith in the covenant-keeping and therefore faithful God. “When we seek God diligently it is because we have been persuaded of His integrity to keep His word.”9

So, believe Him when He says that His Son is the Saviour. Believe Him when He says that Jesus Christ is your only hope. Believe Him when He says that the old covenant ceremonies and sacrifices are abolished in favour of the once-for-all sacrifice of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Believe Him when He says that your sins are forgiven. Believe Him when He says that your eternal hope is certain. Believe Him when He says that He loves and cares for you. Believe Him when He says that your suffering for Him will be vindicated. Believe Him when He says that your needs will be met. Believe Him when He says that you will see your believing loved one again. Believe Him when He says that all the nations will be discipled.

And prove your belief by your behaviour.

A Commitment of Faith

Confidence in the God that we confess is inseparable from commitment to the God we confess. We can call this walking with God. The text says that we must “diligently seek” God. This word “denotes a singular determination to devote oneself to the service of God.”10

Enoch walked with God. He continually obeyed God. He was in communion with God because He was committed to God. This is what faith looks like. It looks like loving obedience to God. It takes God seriously. Do you?

You don’t if you refuse to repent and to believe His Son. If you truly desire to please God, then believe God—not merely believe in Him but rather believe Him. Believe Him in Christ.

Summary

We need the reminder that we can only walk with God if we are in agreement with Him. This is what faith requires. “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). To walk with God is to have a relationship with Him. He initiates and we respond.

The Reward for Pleasing God

Enoch believed in God’s self-revelation. His confession of faith was sound. His confidence was strong. His commitment was solid. And God proved Himself worthy of this faith. God rewarded Enoch. And He will reward you as well. How?

God took Enoch out of this world and all of those who walk with God will be taken out of this world as well. Let me explain.

In Genesis 5 we read the common refrain “and he died,” but “the seventh from Adam” left the earth without any obituary. Unlike the first hero of faith mentioned, Enoch did not die. This is a major contrast. Both were witnesses, but one was murdered for this faith while the other was miraculously delivered from death.

It has been suggested that the faith for which Enoch was commended was faith that he would be translated. I think that is reading too much into the text. Rather, for reasons only known to God, He chose to take this man to heaven without him first experiencing the grave.

The walk of faith always requires the same conditions (confession, confidence/conviction and commitment). But it often results in different consequences. You see, faith is not about the outcome but rather about the object.

Certainly, saving faith will always yield the same consequence of eternal salvation. But the experience of that on earth will vary from believer to believer. This is our confidence in believing “that He is.” We trust Him whether our experience is that of an Abel or that of an Enoch. As Phillips summarises, “The point is that Enoch’s record tells us of a life after death, and of God’s ability to reward his own with everlasting life.”11

Some have suggested (and at one time I did as well) that this is evidence for the biblical teaching of the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:17). It may be. That is, it is true that Christians who are alive when the Lord returns will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord. However, at the least we can learn from the example of Enoch that the just shall will libe by faith and their faith will be rewarded by one day being forever with the Lord.

Whether you go by the clod or by the cloud, those who live by biblical faith will be delivered from the curse of this world one day. It is true that, when a person is born again, they are “translated” from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13). In this sense, every believer has already had an Enoch-like experience. And we should live like it. We have every reason to continually come to God through Christ and to continually walk with Him.

But one day this will be a completely unbroken experience—when we die or when Jesus returns. What a glorious day that will be!

Enoch believed that God was worthy of his trust. He believed that the God of the Bible was worthy to be followed. Enoch believed that God was trustworthy. He believed that God would “reward” his trust with remission and relationship—forever. Do you? Will you? You must!

At the end of the day, pleasing God by trusting God in Christ is the most important thing you can ever do. Forget about pleasing those and that which God will one day destroy. By faith, worship and walk with God. Repent as you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. I think that Donald Guthrie nails it when he comments that v. 6 “is intended to reassure those who are questioning whether the request for God is always successful…. There is no fear that any seeker may not find him if he acts in faith.” The just shall live by faith; and this pleases God.

Show 11 footnotes

  1. William L. Lane, Hebrews: Word Biblical Commentary, 2 vols. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), 2:337.
  2. Donald Guthrie, Hebrews: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 1983), 231.
  3. R. T. Kendall, Believing God: Studies on Faith in Hebrews 11 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 40.
  4. Hywel R. Jones, Let’s Study Hebrews (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2002), 127.
  5. Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews: The Bible Speaks Today (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000), 201.
  6. Lane, Hebrews, 2:337.
  7. F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews: The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 290.
  8. Richard D. Phillips, Hebrews: Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2006), 418–19.
  9. Kendall, Believing God, 41.
  10. Lane, Hebrews, 2:338.
  11. Phillips, Hebrews, 421.