Throughout history, under both the old and new covenants, the righteous live by faith. The faith of the Old Testament saints is a quality that we, as New Testament believers, are to emulate. The New Testament reminds us of their example and of the critical need to live by faith no matter what era we inhabit.
Despite their often public shortcomings, the faith of our Old Testament forebears is to be celebrated and followed. Their faith was demonstrated by simply believing and acting upon the promises of God. Hebrews chapter 11 highlights the various situations where the faith of the Old Testament saints was put to the test and they passed with flying colors. And they believed even when the promises were yet to be fulfilled.
Hebrews 11 ends with, “And all these [heroes of the faith], having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (Heb 11:39). Why? Because it was still coming in the future; in the salvation of Jesus Christ. The faith of God’s people in the Old Testament was forward-facing. They were looking forward to the coming of the kingdom of God and the coming of His king, the Messiah.
Today, as citizens of that kingdom and servants of the King, we exercise a faith that is past, present, and future. Facing backward, we see Jesus arrive on the scene 2000 years ago. By faith, we believe that He indeed is the Promised One, the Anointed One, the Messiah. By faith, we have embraced His message and His sacrifice. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). We have been saved through faith in Jesus.
In the present day, we walk by faith. Just like the Old Testament believers, our present day faith is in the promises of God. We believe that He has given us a new identity, even if we do not feel it. We believe that we are indwelt by His Spirit, and we walk accordingly. “Now those who belong to Jesus Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:24-25).
And our current “walking by faith” connects us to the faith of the Old Testament saints. Listen to Paul make the connection in Galatians chapter 3. “Does God then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith that are sons of Abraham” (Gal 3:5-7).
Finally, our faith is also facing forward into the future; believing in the promise of Christ’s return. “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:13-14). The righteous indeed live by faith.