Biblical characters are some of the greatest sources of spiritual truths for Christians. We glean lessons from both their obedience and disobedience to God. From some of them we learn about courage. From others we pick lessons about parenting. Others teach us about frugality, governance, productivity and excellence in life, marriage, faith e.t.c.
In all of the Bible, Hebrews 11 presents us with what I describe as a masterpiece chronicling the lives of many of these biblical characters and their walk with God. We see a parade of what is commonly called the heroes of faith. They were men and women like us. And succinctly Scripture wraps up all of their lives in these popular words of Scripture: “For by it[Faith] the people of old received their commendation”. (Heb.11:2).
“The people of old”, or “elders” as the Authorised version calls them are lined up verse after verse with their exploits of faith. Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Samson… By the time you get to verse 32, a crescendo appears to be building up; the Hebrew writer keeps piling up the exploits of these men of faith:
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 (vv.32-39).
Now unless you are not paying attention when reading Hebrews 11, you will certainly admire these mere mortal men and women. However, as is consistent with the intent of the writer of Hebrews, that is, pointing to the superiority of Christ over all, Christ is quickly brought into the picture so we don’t settle our faith in these heroes lined up.
Beautifully, as if distract from the heroes of faith in Chapter 11, Chapter 12 shifts attention to Jesus Christ. In verse 2, we read the words “Looking unto Jesus:”
That my dear friend is the crust of Christianity. Jesus Christ is our focus. He is the one we look to. He is the one we focus on. He is our attention: “Looking unto Jesus“. That could read “fix your gaze upon Jesus”. All these men and women listed in Chapter 11 are good examples for our faith. But Christ is the Supreme and Elegant One we are to focus on. When John the Baptist saw Jesus, He called all attention upon Him: “Behold the Lamb of God…” (John 1:29).
Why must Christ be our focus? Because, the author continues: “[He is] the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Again, the Authorised version gives us a stronger, poetic rendiction: “He is the author and finisher of our faith.”
This means firstly that, our faith–our Christian Salvation is a work that was done by Christ. We didn’t save ourselves; Jesus saved us: “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” and moreover, “not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.“(Rom 5:8; 1John 4:10). Our salvation was wrought for us before the foundation of the earth ( Eph. 1:4-5, 1Pet. 1:2) and hence we ought to be grateful to God.
Secondly, Jesus Christ as the perfecter or finisher of our faith means that, as Paul said in Phil 1:6, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion“. Here is a certainty and assurance for the believer. What God started in Christ, he will finish. This is one of the classic texts for eternal security: what God starts he finishes and the believer will never lose their salvation.
What a joy! Christ has done all these for us and rightly, he is to be our meditation, focus and attention. Men and women of Scripture can teach us many lessons of life; but Only Christ can save. He alone gave His life as a ransom to save us. Hallelujah, Christ is King and our delight!
Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven;
To His feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Evermore His praises sing:
Praise Him, praise Him, alleluia!
Praise the everlasting King.