Salvation has always been by faith alone. God spoke to Israel in various ways in the past. Those who trusted God and His revelation, His Word, were proclaimed “righteous.” Not by keeping the laws or by sacrifices or by rituals but by believing God and His promises.  In chapter 11 of Hebrews many of the Old Testament heroes were commended for their faith, not for their works. After explaining that “Faith” is trusting God to be in control and to have our best interest foremost in mind regardless of our life circumstances, the author of Hebrews says in 11:2, “For by it the people of old received their commendation.”  When talking about all the Old Testament characters that are listed in Hebrews chapter 11, one commentary says, “The heroes of faith have one thing in common: they put their undivided confidence in God. In spite of all their trials and difficult circumstances, they triumphed because of their trust in God. For the author, faith is adhering to the promises of God, depending on the Word of God, and remaining faithful to the Son of God.”[1]

Notice that this commentator uses the phrase “undivided confidence.” The Prophets, the Angels, Moses, the Law, the Priesthood, the Tabernacle were all means God used to speak to man in times past as the writer says in Chapter 1. But now, all those things were shown to be just shadows of the redemption that Jesus would bring to earth on God’s behalf.  God speaks to us in these days through His Son! Jesus speaks to us now and deserves, no demands, our undivided attention. The writer has already told his readers to focus their attention on Jesus. He told them to keep looking to Jesus. He told them that “abiding” in Jesus was to give their full confidence to His finished work on their behalf. His many warnings concerned slip-sliding away into a religion of self-effort. Faith is not, and it never has been, part trusting in Jesus and part trusting in one’s own efforts, rituals and sacrifices.  Faith, saving faith, is going all in on Jesus! It’s putting all our eggs in his basket. It’s trusting completely and solely on Christ’s work and having no confidence in the flesh.

Saving faith is often illustrated as the Focus on the Family website does by getting in the wheel barrel. It tells of a man named Calvery who in 1892, “…pushed a wheelbarrow over a tightrope stretched across Niagara Falls. After performing this feat, he turned to his audience and asked, ‘Now that you’ve seen what I can do, do you believe I can do it again?’ ‘Yes!’ replied the crowd. ‘Do you think I can do it with another person in the wheelbarrow?’ said Calverly. ‘Yes!’ was the enthusiastic response. ‘Well, then,’ said Calverly, ‘who wants to climb in?’ Genuine New Testament faith means getting in the wheelbarrow. It’s not just a question of standing on the sidelines and saying, ‘I believe.’” (See  Faith is getting into Jesus’ wheelbarrow!)

[1] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of Hebrews, vol. 15, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 310.