"By it [faith] the people of old attained a good report”
Thomas Manton once said “true faith is an old grace”. God’s grace has been around for a long time. Sometimes we mistakenly think that believers in the Old Testament had to rely on the Law to be saved, whereas believers in the New Testament can rely on God’s grace. This is absolutely wrong. God has been consistent from the very moment humanity fell into sin. In his exposition on the letter to the Hebrews John Owen wrote, “it is faith alone which from the beginning of the world was the means and way of obtaining acceptance with God”. Salvation has only ever been possible because of the rich, deep, and forgiving grace of God.
Law and grace are meant to go together. The Law points to grace and grace fulfills the intent of the Law. The reason the ‘heroes of faith’ in Hebrews 11 were reconciled to God was not because they fulfilled every tiny bit of God’s law—they most certainly did not. Some on the list were adulterers, liars and even murderers. They failed over and over again in keeping God’s holy law and Old Testament believer was ever reconciled to God because of their observance of the Law. The Law, though precious and beautiful, condemns us because all fail to meet its rigorous standards.
These Old Testament believers certainly cherished God’s law, but they cherished his grace even more. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that “it is by grace that you have been saved, not of works, lest any man should boast”. Trying to adhere to the Law to be saved is to have faith in our selves (which is foolish faith—no real faith at all). But when we cling to grace our faith finds its object solely in Jesus. From Moses to Billy Graham, all believers were reconciled to God only on the basis of their faith in his marvelous saving grace.
“It is faith alone which from the beginning of the world was
the means and way of obtaining acceptance with God”
- John Own, Exposition on Hebrews (Vol 7)