Gospel Faith in the Old Testament 1

Gospel Faith in the Old Testament

Hebrews 11


In a world where people dismiss faith as ‘wishful thinking’, or simply identify it with the beliefs and practices of a particular religion (e.g. ‘the Muslim faith’) or hi-jack faith to make it a tool used to yank Father’s proverbial chain so that he gives us stuff, it would be good to have a picture of the faith that actually pleases God.


Hebrews shows the link between faith, hope, obedience and perseverance, illustrating that it (faith) is more than intellectual agreement with certain beliefs. God-honoring faith takes God at his word and lives expectantly and obediently in the present, waiting for him to fulfill his promises. (However) such faith (can) bring suffering and persecution in various forms.[1]


Faith can bring suffering in that waiting for the fulfillment of hope can be difficult emotionally, mentally and physically via persecution.


As a people who are seeking the glory of God to build the church both local and global by being and producing radical followers of Jesus through the means employed we are going to need to understand and have encouragement to live out the link between faith and hope, faith and obedience and faith and endurance.


We will need to practice the reality that God honoring faith takes God at his word and live expectantly / eagerly and obediently in the present while waiting for him to fulfill his promises.


Our section that we will be looking at for the times we look into examples of Gospel faith in the Old Testament is Hebrews 11.


Hebrews 11 is set up by the content of chapter 10:19-39 and frankly, the entire book.


(Here, 10:19-39) a special encouragement to persevere in faith is found in the assurance that Jesus will return and not delay in fulfilling his saving plan.


The writer quotes from Habakkuk 2:3–4 in a form that depends on the Greek translation of the OT (the lxx).


That version makes the subject a person, rather than a vision or revelation as in the Hebrew text and the English versions.


In Hebrews, the implication is that Jesus is the one who is coming and who will not delay. Jesus is that vision that will come!


The introductory words (For in just a very little while), which probably come from Isaiah 26:20, emphasize the point and suggest that the readers had a problem about the need to wait patiently for Christ’s return.


This would have been especially the case if they could see more persecution and suffering on the horizon.


The writer has also reversed the order of the sentences in Hab. 2:4 to make it clear that the person who lives by faith (my righteous one), rather than he who is coming, may be tempted to shrink back. God will not be pleased with those who shrink back in unbelief: they will be destroyed in the coming judgment.


However, the writer ends the chapter on a positive note by suggesting that his readers are those who believe and are saved (lit. ‘who have faith which leads to the preservation of the soul’).[2]


Also, after the warning passage in 6:4–8, the writer encourages his readers to persevere (6:9–12), concluding by encouraging them to ‘imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.’


The same pattern is found at the end of chapter 10. A warning about the consequence of rejecting Jesus (by the way, this is written to the church not non-Christians, therefore, the admonition about rejecting Jesus is to Christians) is followed by encouragements to maintain ‘confidence’ and ‘persevere’ in faith, in order to ‘receive what he has promised’ (10:26–39).


Then, in chapter 11, various models of faith from the OT are given. 19 specific people or events involving all of the people are given as examples of Gospel faith in the OT, faith that helped them to have hope, obey and endure.


Summiting this honor role of faith is the portrait of Jesus as ‘the author and perfector of faith’ (12:2–3). Our eyes follow the faithful, but our eyes follow lines of faithful people to the author and perfector of their faith that we might see Jesus!


Believers, (Three Rivers Community Church) are to look to this ‘great cloud of witnesses,’ and particularly to Jesus, for encouragement to endure opposition and hardship of every sort  (12:1–13).[3]


TRCC, while we wait for the Lord we are not simply to wait here in a holy huddle. We are to be working, with hands to the plow of Gospel work, encouraging one another and being encouraged by each other’s encouragement so that we are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin but rather are set up to stay the course in joy in faith which pleases Father and results in our salvation.


So, let’s ask some questions.


1. What is faith?

Hebrews 11:1

Here we discover the essential characteristics of faith.


Faith deals with things future (what we hope for) and things unseen (what we do not see).


The niv translation (being sure of what we hope for) puts the emphasis on faith as an expression of our confidence in God’s promises.


However, it is also possible to translate, ‘faith is the assurance / substance [hypostasis] of things hoped for’, or ‘faith gives substance to our hopes’ (neb).


Such a translation suggests that what we hope for becomes real and substantial by the exercise of faith. This also assumes what we hope for it informed by Gospel hopes.


This does not mean that the gospel is true simply because we believe in it! Rather, the reality of what we hope for is confirmed for us in our experience when we live by faith in God’s promises.


Again, faith is being certain of what we do not see or the conviction of things unseen.


It is the means of ‘proving’ or ‘testing’ invisible realities such as the existence of God, his faithfulness to his word and his control over our world and its concerns. That proving or testing is shown in the person who believes living out what they are assured of.


Example: If I believe God is faithful to save through with the Gospel, I’ll proclaim the Gospel to people who need to hear it.


True Bible faith is not blind optimism or a manufactured “hope-so” feeling. Neither is it an intellectual assent to a doctrine. It is certainly not believing in spite of evidence! That would be superstition. True Bible faith is confident obedience to God’s Word in spite of circumstances and consequences.[4]


Faith is to a Christian what a foundation is to a house: it gives confidence and assurance that he will stand. [5]


For such faith the ancients were commended (2, Gk. emartyrēthēsan, cf. vs 4, 5, 39), that is they were spoken well of / approved.[6]


2. What made faith necessary? Genesis 3

A. The Fall

B. Father was now no longer accessible in face-to-face interaction

C. Our parents not only alienated themselves from Father, Son, Spirit but they

alienated all of their descendants from God thus leading to the nations

scattering and inventing the God of their fathers in their own image.


3. How do we get faith? Ephesians 2; Romans 10:14-15

A. Faith is a precious gift from Father

B. Faith comes by through the preaching of the Gospel

How do we maintain our faith once we have believed? (Colossians 2:6-7)

A. Come to Jesus daily for Gospel

B. Remain in Jesus

C. Stay in Scripture Romans 15:4

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

(Romans 15:4 ESV)


4. Faith trusts Father for the future Hebrews 11:3

The writer begins where Genesis begins, because faith in God as the Creator of everything that exists is fundamental to the Bible’s view of reality. By faith we understand that the universe [Gk. aiōnas, as in 1:2] was formed at God’s command. If God is in control of nature and history, past and present, every generation of believers can trust his promises about the future, no matter what it may cost them. When the writer says what is seen was not made out of what was visible, he alludes to the definition of faith in v 1. Faith discerns that the universe of space and time has an invisible source and that it continues to be dependent on God’s command (lit. ‘God’s word’). Such faith is based on the revelation he has given us in Scripture.[7]


5. Conclusion

A. What stands in the future that you / we need to trust Father for based on his

clear call and command? What do you have to hold on to faith for? Is it a Gospel

reality? Is it a clear call from Father? Is it a good pursuit that would make Father

look astounding in?

1. Pray that his name is made great

2. Pray that his will is done

3. Scour the Scriptures for encouraging instruction that is alive

and powerful

4. Pray that Father makes a way where there seems to be no way

5. Pray for necessary resources, physical / emotional, to do or see what

what is out in front

6. Pray for perseverance to, if necessary, die in trust having never seen the


7. Refuse to fret and worry

[1] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Heb 11:1–40.

lxx Septuagint (Gk. version of OT)

[2] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Heb 10:19–39.

[3] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Heb 11:1–12:13.

niv New International Version

[4] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996), Heb 11:1.

[5] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996), Heb 11:1.

cf. compare

[6] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Heb 11:1–40.

[7] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Heb 11:1–40.

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