Preaching through Genesis, I interact with Bible heroes every week. Enosh, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham have now each become my heroes. Enosh, whose name means “small man,” called upon the name of the Lord amidst the din of godless tyrants like Cain and Lamech. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, walked with God and proclaimed the coming wrath to a rebellious generation. Noah, a preacher of righteousness, was the only holdover to the truth while everyone else defected in mass apostasy. He gave up his life on earth to bottle up his family and the whole creation in the ark. Abraham left his parents, left his homeland and offered up his son because he saw God as infinitely more valuable than anything. These men are my heroes. By their example, they inspire me to forsake all for the delight of knowing Christ.
Should they be my heroes? Some say, “No.” For example, consider Tullian Tchividjian, a popular Presbyterian pastor from Florida. In his series on Genesis, over and again he emphasized that we must not hold these men up as heroes, and he criticized pastors and Sunday school teachers who do just that. While preaching on Noah he says, “…Genesis is not a book of human heroes that we are called to emulate. It is not a book of human heroes who did great things for God… It is a catalogue of sinners in need of a God who saves.” Later in the sermon, he criticized his childhood Sunday school teachers for presenting Noah as a hero and example.
Tchividjian is half right. Genesis, and all of Scripture, is primarily about a God who saves sinners, a God who cleans up our mess. That being said, it is also a book about a God who takes sinners and so cleans up their mess that He uses them in heroic ways. God is the big hero. God uses small unlikely heroes. Scripture records the small heroes along with their heroic acts, at least in part, so that we can draw strength from their examples. While each small hero is full of flaws, we learn that God uses imperfect men to accomplish His perfect plan. That is encouraging. Not only does Scripture call us to emulate Bible heroes, but also to emulate present day heroes. And not only does Scripture call us to emulate present day heroes, but it also calls us to be present day heroes worthy of emulation.
Consider Abraham, the quintessential biblical man of faith. No other name in Scripture is more synonymous with faith than his. Romans 4:19-21 describes his faith. Galatians 3:5-9 explains we are Abraham’s sons if we have Abraham’s faith. James 2:16-24 shows that Abraham’s faith led to his heroic obedience, and it explains that our saving faith will produce the same obedience. Abraham is our example of faith. “What does faith look like?” we may ask. “Observe and emulate Abraham,” Scripture answers.
Sarah, Abraham’s wife, is also an example to be emulated. Christian women must submit to their husbands “as Sarah obeyed Abraham” (1 Peter 3:6). How does a Christian woman respond to her husband? Scripture points to Sarah as an example. Emulate her.
Hebrews 11 is known as the “Faith Hall of Fame.” It lists scores of Bible heroes as examples of faith. Included in the list are Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Jacob. Each man is commended for his faith displayed in works of obedience. This entire chapter of Hebrews lists example after example of faithful servants who perform heroic deeds. The list itself highlights the heroes and their works. Following the list of faithful heroes, in Hebrews 12:1-2, Scripture calls us to “also” emulate them. What do faithful Christians do? Look to the Bible stories and learn.
Not only does the Bible hold Old Testament saints up as examples, it does the same with New Testament saints and even present day church leaders.
Paul tells the church to imitate him (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; 2 Timothy 3:10-11). And then he tells people to imitate his imitators (Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). He tells Timothy (1 Timothy 4:12), Titus (Titus 2:7-8), and older women (Titus 2:2-5) to be examples for others to imitate. Peter commands the elders to be examples (1 Peter 5:3) for imitation. The author of Hebrews commands all Christians to imitate their faithful church leaders (Hebrews 13:7). Again and again, Scripture points to mortal men and women who we should emulate.
None of them are perfect examples. We are never called to emulate Noah’s drunkenness or Abraham’s cowardice or Paul’s murderousness. But I find it interesting that the New Testament highlights, not the failures of the Old Testament small heroes, but rather their victories. Could this be because the Holy Spirit wants us to know He remembers, not our failures, but our victories?
So you need a hero?
The Bible is full of heroes to be emulated! Are they perfect? No. But they do heroic deeds and have redemptive attributes that deserve both our commendation and our emulation. Ultimately, the imperfections of our imperfect heroes point to the perfection of our Perfect Hero. Neither Noah, Abraham, Paul, nor you are perfect. So we fix our gaze upon the blameless Saviour, our perfect example to be emulated and our perfect substitute who earned our pefect righteousness.