“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 11:39-40
I find this to be a completely humbling verse. Not only does it portray the magnificent wisdom and unity of God’s covenant of grace, it is also a commentary on just how much we, even under the New Testament, are following in the footsteps of the faithful believers who were under the Old Testament.
Throughout the ages, God has had only one covenant of grace, one way of justification, one way of reconciliation, one way of restoring harmony between the Creator and his fallen creatures whom he had made in his image. Though he promised hope to Adam immediately upon his fall, he did not reveal the fullness of the glory of his covenant until after the resurrection of Christ. In Christ was the fulfillment of all the promises of the preceding affirmations of God’s covenant to save out a people to be holy to himself.
The apostle Peter said, in Acts 15:9 and 11, “…he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith…but we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” Though he was speaking of Gentile vs. Jewish Christians, but it is practically the same sort of circumstances as if we were considering the believers under the old adminstration and under the new.
Even as Abraham was justified by faith, so we believe that we shall be justified by faith. Though we have been delivered a fullness of understanding and have “received the promises” of the Redeemer Savior and of the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts and writing the law there, we hope to be saved in the same manner as those who have gone before–by believing what God has said. For this is faith: “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
It is through faith in the promises of God–whether yet to see fulfillment or once for all delivered to the saints–that the elect of God are reconciled to him forever. “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ…was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (II Corinthians 1:19-22)
We are fellow pilgrims with the saints who have gone before–we are not islands. May we who pray for Reformation not forget this.