I admit, I am a bit of an aficionado of Church history – the fathers, the creeds, the councils, the martyrs – all of it. I’m not an expert on it by any means, but I do love it and love learning about it. And reading Hebrews 11, also known as the Hall of Fame of Faith chapter, recently helped me realize why.
Hebrews 11 summarizes the history of some of the great men and women of faith in the Old Testament. After giving synopses of some of their exploits, the author sums it up this way:
32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. 1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
Why do I love Church history? For several reasons. It is the story of how God worked in history throughout all generations. It shows God’s power, sovereignty, and rule over history which culminates in Jesus. Through studying history, we see the faithfulness of God to His servants, whether they experienced deliverance (v. 33-35) or not (v. 36-39). Some demonstrated their faith and experienced deliverance, and others demonstrated it though they were not delivered.
From Abel to Enoch; from Noah to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; from Moses to Rahab; from the Godly judges to the good kings of Judah, the Prophets, and the OT saints; from the Apostles to Stephen and the rest of the NT saints; from all the martyrs from the first century to the present day, those whose names are recorded in history and those whose names are written only in heaven. All who have ever trusted in God are a part of this story, His story.
And we are a continuation of their story, the story of Faith. As in a relay race, they have passed the torch to us, though I confess that I cannot hold a candle to them.
May we heed the exhortation in Hebrews 12:1-2. Let us lay aside anything that hinders us in this race, and let us run in faith looking to Jesus, as those who have gone before cheer us on.