Gospel Faith in the Old Testament: Conclusion

Gospel Faith in the Old Testament

Gospel Motivation from a Great Cloud of Witnesses to keep the faith

Hebrews 11:39-12:2


A fitting conclusion to chapter 11 and a transition to the call of chapter 12 is provided by these verses (11:39-40).


These (all these  Old Testament Saints we have been studying) were all commended for their faithin the sense that God testified to their faith and made them witnesses of true faith for others (cf. v 2; 12:1).


Yet none of them received what had been promised(v 13). Although they saw the fulfillment of specific promises in this life (e.g. 6:15; 11:11, 33), none of them experienced the blessings of the Messianic era and of the new covenant.


In his gracious providence, God had planned something better for us in the sense that their enjoyment of perfection through Jesus Christ would only be together with us (that is that their salvation was secured because Father is gracious to pass over their sins [see Romans 3:21-26] knowing he would pay for them at the cross when he put the Son to death for their sin and ours who were yet to believe).


The writer’s point is to stress the enormous privilege of living ‘in these last days (1:2; see 10:14).[1]


“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12


In spite of the difficulty endured by the original readers, the privilege of living in the last days of the advent of the King, Jesus, is tremendous. Believers now get the indwelling Holy Spirit to counsel, guide to truth and remind us of what has been said. These precious gifts of the age of the New Covenant are joyous and vitally useful during these Christian’s difficult suffering.


Therefore, the recipients of this letter would be encouraged to persevere because they were living in a day that their suffering wad mediated through the multi-faceted blessings of the New Covenant.


These witnesses to Gospel faith showed the original recipients and us how to run the race of following Jesus in the Great Commission in faith and the writer of Hebrews tells his readers where to run, namely Jesus.


Remember, Hebrews 11:40 is not the end of this exhortation to live by faith. The writer of this letter puts the capstone of 12:1-4 in place and ends with this marvelous statement in verse 3 and 4 of chapter 12:


“Consider him who endured such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”


This passage seems to suggest that our greatest struggle is not against outside forces of evil but rather our greatest struggle is against our own personal and corporate sin.


Evil done by outsiders to hinder the Gospel is expected. The Lord said so. That’s not to be too uncommon. However, it would be sin that could hinder our response to the external difficulty that could keep us from pursuing the Lord Jesus wherever he is leading.


Perhaps “sin” here includes other’s sinning against us to hinder the work of the Gospel. But I’m convinced that, in light of 12:1, the author is referencing the sin in our flesh that the New Covenant heart fights against.


Jesus endured hostilities from men as the sacrifice for our sin. Any hostility we face from men pales in comparison to Jesus’ taking hostilities from man as punishment from the Father (see Isaiah 53) as the sacrifice for my sin.


Therefore, our great struggle will not be from the hands of men. Our great struggle will be against sin.


How can we successfully wrestle our sinful tendency to the ground and make it tap out so that we can, with the saints of the Old Testament, be witnesses to the faithfulness of the Lord?


1. Observe great witnesses to Gospel faith and imitate their example

Witness does not mean here spectator. Witness means those who have born witness to what it means to believe the Gospel and follow the Lord by faith.


A. We have the examples of Scripture that the author of Hebrews references.


B. We have the saints in Christians History we can read about and the one’s we

have highlighted for you over the past years here, including next week Dietrich

Bonhoeffer, who have lived lives of Gospel faith. Some of them obscure and some of them famous


C. We have people among us who are living out the faith


2. We must lay aside / abandon all hindrances


A. Every weight


The phrase “lay aside” here means “Rend in the sense of get rid of. “Weight” is the idea of “encumbrance,” according to the figure of the racer (thus the analogy of “run”) who puts away everything which may hinder his running. So the readers are exhorted to lay aside every worldly hindrance or embarrassment to their Christian career.”[2]


This obviously is not referring to outright sin. The reason is because the next phrase begins with “sin which clings so closely”.


The idea is shedding things that may not be sin but they don’t allow you to run as fast as you could.


By analogy, when our cross-country runners run they usually don’t run in sweatshirts and hunting boots. It would not be wrong to do so but it would ensure they don’t place or even compete well.


There are things we can hold on to that are not sin, but they sure don’t help us follow the Lord closely either.


1. Abundance?

2. Comfort?

3. Consumer?

4. Taker?

5. Recreation?


B. Sin that clings so closely


Hence, of a sin which readily or easily encircles and entangles the Christian runner, like a long, loose robe clinging to his limbs. Beset is a good rendering, meaning to surround.[3]


The idea here is not borderline hindrances but out-rite run stoppers.


Probably in view, due to the nature of chapter 11 and faith leading to actions and chapter 12 and the Lord’s disciplining of his children in order to give them the peaceful fruit of righteousness, is the sin of unbelief.


I suppose that in some regard, all rebellion has unbelief running around in it somewhere. If I sin its because I don’t believe that the fruit of righteousness tastes better than the fruit of rebellion.


1. Not believing the Gospel is enough to save and you need to add

works to the mix to make you feel better about your atonement?


2. Habitual sin?


3. Sin hidden from community?


C. Run with endurance


Believing and working that belief out into action is likened to a race. And the author instructs the readers to run it with endurance.


The point is that races are to be finished not simply begun and quit. Races are to be ran and finished. This requires endurance. Endurance is gained by practice.


We don’t want to carry the analogy too far because it will break down.


The point is that we are to follow Jesus with endurance not turning back to unbelief because it is easier. Rather, we are to hold on to faith and a good conscience with white knuckled intensity.


1. We don’t leave Jesus because it’s hard

2. We obey the Manual and do what it says

3. We seek repentance daily


3. We must look to Jesus


I’ve noticed that in athletic competition I’ve always been told to keep my eyes up and looking ahead whether it’s football or cross-fit keeping my head up and looking forward is key to good performance.


That is because if I can’t see the play I can’t make a play. If I look down I can loose balance and hurt other muscles.


Again, the athletic analogies can break down. The point is that performance in tasks requires looking toward their right completion.


If we are going to follow Jesus, then we are going to have to look to him on how to be like him and do as he does.




John 5:19

“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”


If the Son of God looked to Father in order to know what to do, we must follow that example and look to Jesus for how to respond and live by faith as we advance the Gospel.


A. Stay in the word

B. Obey the Spirit

C. Do what he says

cf. compare

[1] New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer and G. J. Wenham, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Heb 11:1–40.

[2] Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), Heb 12:1.

[3] Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), Heb 12:1.

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