The one thing that pleases God remains jumbled behind Pharisee zeal for Moses and the Law, liturgical purity, Protestant speculation, and present truth innovations. One cannot read the proclamations about faith without realizing that we experience its value in both living and dying. Hebrews 11 is an iconic exhibit in this regard with its instruction about what faith looks like in the lives of ancient witnesses.
As a result of believing, the subjects – Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — experienced a variety of outcomes, all of which “pleased God”.
It is obvious that moral behaviour is not the focus of these outcomes and commendations. The message is not that these individuals avoided sin: the commendations assert that faith made impossible happen or made unseen things appear. “Faith needs works” is a distraction that springs from a dark place, a Christless place. The condition and behaviour of the just are not tied up in “You shall not” but in God’s very work.
Jesus answered them, This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. John 6:29
We find faith included in the great commandment according to John.
And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 1 John 3:23
Commandment keeping and the resident Spirit are inseparable but it is the gift of the indwelling Spirit that makes us aware that we are abiding in God. No one gets the Holy Spirit by keeping commandments, but by believing. 1 John 3:24
Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
It is cheap and low to imagine that compliance to any law is evidence of a relationship to God and especially one through Christ and especially one that comes from doing nothing. The church unravelled the knots of every ism in its early days (Acts 15, Acts 6 and 7, Galatians 2:12-14, 5:2-6) yet here we are 19 centuries later tied up in knots about irrelevant theories.
Believers are not hoping to be righteous: we are. Believers are not capable of untying that knot that kept us bound: Christ has, in one majestic act, replaced the nots with yea and amen promises which yield life and true righteousness.
Believers have “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness”. Ephesians 4:24
Returning to the proposition that faith is discerned by both living and dying we find that faith needs love and hope. More precisely, we find that we come to life through faith and the life we live is tagged as faith working in love. The critical evaluation of the faithful seems also to be faith-related when the writer of Hebrews in 11:13 concludes that those who died in faith are secure. We should therefore pay close attention to our dying: it is not what we are doing that closes the book. Faith at death does.
We are tied up in knots of our negligence. There is no unravelling of our abandonment of Christ for our own righteousness. Our standing obviously depends on whom we trust and not on what we have achieved or approve. Christ’s contemporaries had so compromised the integrity of their inner life thst they were reluctant to admit what everybody knew, namely, that John was a reliable witness and he had pointed squarely to Yeshua as the Anointed and the Lamb of God. They had wrapped themselves in knots of “You shall not” and silly fables and traditions.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.