Wednesday, September 07, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews -- Lesson 48

To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

Faith's Works

The Writer of Hebrews concludes his essay on faith this way:

And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:32-40, NASB 95)

By faith people have conquered and overcome to great victory. By faith people have endured triumphant enemies, persecution, torture, and death. Faith is our connection to the living and true God. It will unleash His miraculous deliverances or His miraculous power and strength to endure. It is a gift for all seasons.

The one great theme in this letter to the early believing Jews has been the greatness of the New Covenant over the old. Here at the end of chapter 11, the Writer picks up the theme again, "And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. " Salvation has always been by faith. Salvation and a relationship with God have always been by faith and never by works. The casual teaching of much of Christianity infers otherwise--that Jesus brought salvation by faith and not by works. This is not true--and a study of Hebrews, Paul, and James will show their agreement on this.

By faith men of old gained approval and overcame great obstacles--and we can expect the same from our faith. What Jesus, the Son of God, added was access to God. None of us need priests, because we are all priests able to intercede for others. None of us need to travel to the temple, because we are all the temple of the Holy Spirit. None of us need the Day of Atonement, because we all have access to the Holy Place in heaven any time we have need.

And so the challenge for us is to live lives based on the realities of the New Covenant. If the Old Covenant saints accomplished great things, how much greater can we accomplish. They have faith, but we have faith and the Son and direct access.

Think about this as we move to the concluding sections of Hebrews.

Test everything. Cling to what is good.

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