What is faith? The author answers this question by giving the readers first a brief definition and then the application of faith in the lives of many believers. The definition is not designed to be comprehensive; rather, it is introductory in nature. Using examples taken from life, the writer demonstrates the characteristics and qualities of faith.
After an initial reference to the origin of the world, the author chooses his illustrations from specific periods of history. First, from the period between creation and the flood he selects the names of Abel, Enoch, and Noah. These people lived by faith and experienced intimate fellowship with God. With these examples, the writer depicts a gradual progression: Abel’s faith eventually resulted in physical death; Enoch’s faith brought translation to glory; and Noah’s faith provided salvation for him, his family, and the animals.
Then, from the period of the patriarchs, the author selects incidents from the life of Abraham. He shows Abraham’s obedience relative to traveling to the land of Canaan, the birth of a son, and the sacrifice of Isaac. The patriarchs died without seeing the promises of God fulfilled: they longed for life eternal in a heavenly city. Also, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph looked to the future.
From the time of the exodus from Egypt to the conquest of Canaan, the writer gleans events from the life of Moses: his birth, childhood, education, and departure from Egypt. He also relates the faith of the Israelites in crossing the Red Sea and in marching around Jericho’s walls. A brief remark on Rahab’s faith concludes his comments about that era.
When the author comes to the period of the judges, kings, and prophets, he lists only some representative names. He summarizes the types of trials and triumphs that believers endured and enjoyed. Although he refrains from providing details, he intimates a relation between these persons and deeds of faith.
In his conclusion, the writer discloses that the Old Testament saints and the readers of his epistle share a common faith and together reap the benefits of a fulfilled promise. Believers are made perfect through the work of Christ.