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Hebrews 11:2

ESV For by it the people of old received their commendation.
NIV This is what the ancients were commended for.
NASB For by it the people of old gained approval.
CSB For by this our ancestors were approved.
NLT Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.
KJV For by it the elders obtained a good report.

What does Hebrews 11:2 mean?

The "it" referred to here is faith—a trusting reliance on God. In context, this is not mere "belief," in an intellectual sense. Nor is it a blind assumption. Rather, it's a choice to follow God with confidence, even when we don't fully know what lies ahead. The famous figures listed later in this chapter are among those "people of old" who are commended on the basis of their faith.

A recurring theme in the book of Hebrews is that God had always intended to replace the old covenant with the new covenant (Hebrews 8:6–7). Using various quotations from Scripture, the writer explained that animal sacrifices and rituals were never meant to be our ultimate answer for sin. On the contrary, those were merely symbols of a "true" salvation found in Christ (Hebrews 9:11–12). This makes faith, not works, the method of salvation for those living in the era of the old covenant, just as much as for those living in the era of the new covenant.

As this chapter continues, the writer will explain how the examples of figures such as Abraham, Moses, Gideon, and Rahab prove that God was responding to their faith. Their obedience and actions were products of saving faith, not the cause of their salvation. God honored their actions, but did so because of the faith which produced those works.
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