Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation… And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:1, 2, 32-40 ESV)
If the only way to God is by faith in Jesus, did you ever wonder how or even if anyone before Christ was saved? In these first two verses we find a definition of faith, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” This was how the Old Testament saints were saved, i.e. “received their commendation.” The writer shows us example after example of how Old Testament saints believed the promises of God which all come to a head in the person of Jesus. They all believed that God had in store something better, a future peace, a land of promise, a heavenly home that meant they would be washed clean of their sin and be able to dwell with God as their God. The details of how we’re not always known but they were as much as God had revealed about his plan to save them. While they didn’t know the name Jesus, they knew of the promise of this one that would come. They knew the “seed of the woman” would crush the head of the servant (Ge 3:15). They knew that God would provide safe passage through his judgment (Ge 6-9). They knew that blessing would come through the offspring of Abraham (Ge 12). They knew God would raise up a prophet like Moses to lead them into the Promised Land (Dt 18:18). They knew that the son of David would sit on God’s throne and bring peace to His people (2 Sa 7). Even though they did not know the name Jesus, their faith was the “conviction of things (God’s promises fulfilled) not seen.”
This faith was such a conviction that it moved each of these OT examples to do amazing things. True faith always moves you to live in light of the promises and so makes your life stand out.
The faith of Christians today looks the same in terms of moving us to live in a way that we would not otherwise live. We set priorities based on our conviction that this world is not our home and the treasures tied to this world are not our treasures. Our treasures are in heaven as is our home. We seek to live not to build our own kingdom but to invest in God’s Kingdom. We trust in Jesus, rather than our own good works, to give us free access to the Father.
The difference between us and the Old Testament saints is great, however. We know the name of Jesus and live on this side (after) the cross. That means that the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon us in a way that the OT saints never experienced. We know inwardly what they only experienced outwardly. That means that our faith, fueled by the presence of the Holy Spirit, gives us a whole new level of conviction than OT saints had. Our faith is built on fulfilled promises (in the person of Christ and his first coming) and more clear promises (in the revelation of his second coming).
How does your life look different because of your faith?
Thank God for giving us faith to believe in Jesus and ask Him to fuel that faith through the presence of His Holy Spirit.
McCheyne’s reading plan: 1 Ch 7-8 He 11, Am 5, Ps 86