The Gospel According to Enoch

The Gospel According to Enoch • Pastor Alex Loginow
[Sermon Transcript]

Hebrews 11:5-6

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. 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. 

What happened to Jimmy Hoffa? That is the question, isn’t it? The disappearance of the Teamsters president in 1975 remains an unanswered question. This mystery lives in Detroit folklore, for Hoffa was last seen outside a restaurant in Bloomfield. Hoffa did have ties to the mob, so it’s assumed that they are the ones who kidnapped him, but nobody knows for sure. He was declared dead in absentia on July 30, 1982, but his remains have never been recovered. The Hoffa disappearance has not merely been a Michigan phenomenon though; it has penetrated broader American culture. Books have been written, movies have been made, and even Saturday Night Live has had skits about the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. 

The myth of Jimmy Hoffa has grown over the years as well. There was a rumor that Hoffa was buried at Giants Stadium in New York, so the show Mythbusters did an episode where they went to Giants Stadium before it was torn down looking to dig up the body of Jimmy Hoffa; they found nothing. In 2012, the Roseville police (Roseville, Michigan), announced that they had soil samples from the driveway where a resident claims that they saw someone burying a body around the time of Hoffa’s disappearance. Forensic anthropologists at Michigan State University analyzed the soil and determined that there were no human remains in the soil. Johnny Carson even threw his guess in the mix when he quipped that if the police would simply remove Tammy Faye Bakker’s makeup, they would find Jimmy Hoffa. The disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa has grown into American legend. Everyone’s got a guess. No one knows for sure, and it’s almost taken on a life of its own. 

Something similar happened with a man named Enoch in the history of Israel. After Enoch’s disappearance, he became legend. Some thought that Enoch must be the godliest man who ever lived because he did not die, God took him and he was not. Apocryphal books have been penned in his name (books like 1, 2, 3 Enoch). And even Saint Jude quotes the book of 1st Enoch in his epistle warning about the coming judgment of God (Jude 14-15). The author to the epistle of the Hebrews does not emphasize Enoch’s writings though, his greater concern is that Enoch pleased God. It’s interesting that the Spirit would use both Abel and Enoch as his first 2 examples in his biblical theology of faith. Abel is the first person in the story to die, and Enoch is the first person in the story not to die. While they differ in their departures, the two men share two things in common: (1) they both had faith; and (2) they were both commended.

It is by faith that Enoch was taken so that he should not see death. Remember, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb 11.1). It is by faith that these men of old received their commendation from God. Enoch had faith. He had assurance in the primeval promise – the hope of the garden (Gen 3.15). We are first introduced to Enoch in Gen 5.18-24. Enoch was the son of Jared and the father of Methuselah. He walked the earth 365 years before God took him. But more importantly, Scripture tells us that Enoch walked with God. There is no doubt that the author of Hebrews is quoting the Septuagint when he says that Enoch pleased God. This divine commentary gives us confidence that Enoch’s “walking with God,” as the book of Genesis says, is certainly a euphemism for having pleased his creator. 

Enoch’s faith in the gospel is what led him to please God. In fact, the Bible goes on to declare that without faith, it is impossible to please [God]. Apart from faith, God cannot, and will not, be pleased with his people. There is absolutely no possibility of earning God’s love and favor through good works. Because 2017 is the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, it is only appropriate this morning to remind ourselves of the battle cry of the reformers: sola fide – it is by faith alone – that we are made right with God. Like Abel, Enoch walked with God by faith. And the pastor-writer of this sermon is using Enoch to make the plea that he has made throughout the letter: do not fall away from Jesus! Abel didn’t fall away from Jesus; Enoch didn’t fall away from Jesus; do not fall away from Jesus!

When we talk about faith, we’re not simply referring to blind optimism. It’s not just having good vibes about “god,” or “church,” or “religion.” That is not a biblical understanding of faith. Here in Hebrews 11:5-6, the Holy Spirit explains the nature of faith. Faith means believing that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Faith is the assurance and conviction that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Genuine faith rejects modernistic therapeutic deism, biblical faith rejects relativism, and the present cultural god of naturalism. Faith is assured in the God of the Bible, the God who spoke the cosmos into existence ex nihilo. Faith is convicted about the existence of YHWH, the covenant God of Israel. He is the Lord who created humanity in his image, who promised redemption and reward to his fallen creatures through the gospel promise of Gen 3.15. Faith is assured and convicted that if God’s people seek him, through faith, they will receive the reward of his presence, the resurrection, and the New Creation.

What we learn as the story progresses is that our faith is not in some generic “God,” but in the Son of God – Jesus Christ. Enoch had faith that God would keep the Edenic promise, and God did, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Enoch’s faith was realized in the Christ event! Jesus is the founder and perfecter of Enoch’s faith. He is the creator and the finisher of our faith. He is the alpha and the omega, He is the beginning and the end; he is the ἀρχη and the τέλος (Heb 12.2) The beginning and the end. He is the assurance of hope and the conviction of the unseen. They are realized in Jesus of Nazareth. 

So here we are as New Covenant believers, here we are on the other side of the death, burial and resurrection, ascension and penecost, here we are church, and we now read the Enoch pericope in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is only possible to please God through faith, and faith means believing that Jesus exists as God and that he rewards those who seek him. It is impossible to be right with God if you do not accept Jesus for who the Bible says he is. For no one who denies the Son has the Father (1 John 2.23). The Bible says that Jesus is the eternal Son of God who created and sustains the universe. He was born of a virgin. He lived a sinless life. He died died a substitutionary death on the cross fulfilling the vocation of Adam and Israel. He was buried, and after 3 days, he resurrected from the dead in accordance with the Scriptures

Jesus was not merely a good teacher. Jesus was not a salesman. Jesus is not whatever you or I want Jesus to be. Jesus is both YHWH and Israel. Jesus is the creator and the creature. Jesus is the covenant maker and the covenant keeper. He is the Son of God and the son of man. The unparalleled C.S. Lewis gave us the ultimatum by way of trilemma: you must believe 1 of 3 things about Jesus: he is either (1) a liar; (2) a lunatic; or he is (3) the Lord. There is no alternative. 

If you do not believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the gospel is calling out to you this morning: repent and believe today. Believe that Jesus is who he says he is. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, renounce the devil and all of his works. For if you do not believe that Jesus Christ is who he says he is, then you do not have faith and God is not pleased with you. The gospel beckons this morning - Come to Christ!

For those that do believe, the warning of the book of Hebrews looms large this morning. It beckons this morning to us: do not fall away from Jesus! Don’t hide behind perseverance of the saints. Don’t hide behind “once saved always saved.” Don’t use those theological ideas as an excuse to chase your sin. Don’t fall away! Everyone in the room this morning to some extent has been exposed to the gospel of Jesus, even if this is the very first time you’re hearing it in the worship service this morning. Brothers and sisters, there is no excuse for us. We have heard the gospel. Please don’t taste of the gospel this morning and reject it. Don’t walk away from Jesus. Students, don’t walk away from Jesus when you go away to college. Please do not use sex, or freedom, or naturalism as an excuse to run away from Jesus. Jesus is better. He is better than that. Parents, please do not use work, or never-ending extracurricular activities as an excuse to fall away from Jesus. Jesus is better. Retired folks, please don’t use old age or retirement as an excuse to fall away from Jesus. Jesus is better.

That said, the gospel does not end with belief. Mental ascent in the deity of Christ is not the sum total of faith. Faith results in discipleship. There is no savior and lord dichotomy. You cannot take him as savior and leave yourself as lord. Love for Jesus produces a life that follows Jesus. Faith understands that Jesus rewards those who seek him. Faith compels us to pursue Jesus. By faith, we now pursue Christ through the means of grace that he himself has given us.

There I was, (1, 2, 3) standing with my face to the wall (4, 5, 6), eyes closed (7, 8, 9), counting to 20 (10, 11, 12). The boys are supposed to be hiding (13, 14, 15), but I can hear them (16, 17, 18). Their giggling is filling the house (19, 20, ready or not, here I come). “Daddy, come find us.” I’m not sure they even understand the point of Hide & Seek. So I follow the chattering into the bathroom where Haddon is standing outside of the shower, pointing at the shower, saying “Alex, Jack! Alex, Jack!”. It’s almost as if they want to be found. Not the greatest hiders and seekers in the world.

Brothers & sisters, Jesus wants to be found, but he’s not a professional hide & seeker. He is not hiding from you. Jesus has revealed himself in the Word & in the Sacrament. He gives grace to his people through the preaching of the Word & the administration of Holy Communion. He has provided these gospel-centered rhythms to cultivate and sustain love for Christ in your heart. It’s a weekly aural reminder that Jesus has spoken and he still speaks. It’s a weekly visual reminder that his body was broken and his blood was shed for the remission of sin and the restoration of the cosmos. In our individualistic culture, we can have the tendency to overvalue individual sanctification and neglect the community aspect of what Jesus has actually given us, what He has actually prescribed. There’s nowhere, not a single place in the Bible, where you are commanded to read your Bible every day, but you are commanded to faithfully attend the church and to come to the Eucharist as often as you gather. 

That’s why the warning to not fall away is explicitly and unequivocally tied to the church. Do not neglect assembling together as is the manner of some. If your life is not intimately and organically connected to the church, you will fall away from Jesus. Students, when you go to school, do not abandon the church, you will fall away from Christ. Parents, do not neglect assembling together for work or incessant extracurricular activities or whatever reason seems reasonable at the time. Retired folks, please do not use your retirement or your old age as an excuse to abandon the bride of Christ. You will fall away from Jesus. As St. Clement said, “One cannot have God as Father if he does not also have the church as mother.” The Word encourages us this morning to believe Jesus is who he says he is, and to seek him for his grace and his glory.

The world may never know what happened to Jimmy Hoffa. That may just be lost forever. And like Jimmy Hoffa, there’s another disappearance that baffled the ancient world and continues to confound world-renowned scholars even today. The Sanhedrin knew for sure that Jesus’ dead body had been buried; there was no question about that. But what happened next? Three days later, the tomb was empty! Some concluded that the Apostles lifted his body. Some contend that he wasn’t really dead to begin with and that he somehow tricked the guards and snuck out, and went AWOL, but we know better. The Scriptures tell us that 3 days after he was murdered, Jesus resurrected from the dead. He taught his Apostles for 40 days, and then he ascended to the Father. God took him and he was not. 

You see, Enoch’s peculiar disappearance isn’t just some odd Old Testament story; Enoch was a type of one to come. Jesus is the true and better Enoch. But unlike Enoch, Jesus did see death, and because he did, his Father was pleased with him, and his Father took him up. But also unlike Enoch, Jesus can be found today. He can be found in the preaching of the Word. He can be found in the bread and the wine. He can be found where his people gather to worship in his name and then depart to bring his gospel to the nations. God is pleased with you when you believe that Jesus exists and that you are rewarded when you seek him, by faith.