Book Review – Portraits of Faith: What Five Biblical Characters Teach Us About Our Life With God

Portraits of Faith

Faith is a term used throughout Scripture and one that in my humble opinion is often misunderstood, especially when it comes to understanding the dynamic between how a sound faith will result in godly behavior in the life of the believer. So what exactly does a godly faith look like in action? Do we have examples we can turn to in order to have a good sense of what it means to have a faith that pleases and glorifies God? The clear answer to that question is yes. There are numerous examples in Scripture of faith and in particular, faith in action. In his helpful book Portraits of Faith: What Five Biblical Characters Teach Us about Our Life with God, author Joel Beeke explores some of these examples we find in Scripture.

Beeke begins with a brief yet insightful introduction in which he defines faith. One cannot understand the examples set before them if they do not grasp what it is they should be looking for in those examples. Many are likely familiar with the definition of faith found in Hebrews 11. Beeke aptly points to how faith is traditionally defined in the Reformed traditions and confessions. With that said, I found his salient examples of how faith works to be a sound way of driving home exactly what faith is all about in everyday life. In summation, Beeke defines faith as “the activity of the entire heart expressed throughout life.” A simple yet pervasive approach to the topic.

The remainder of this book is spent examining the lives of five individuals, namely Adam and Eve who are looked at as a unit, the Shunammite woman, the Canaanite woman, and Caleb. As Beeke walks the reader through these individuals, one can observe a progression of faith unfolding. We begin with the childlike faith of Adam and Eve, then moving on to submissive and mature faith, concluding with a look at persevering faith.

We all begin our walk and relationship with God via a childlike faith. When we look at Adam and Eve, we are at the point in history where God had just concluded His six days of creative activity. He tells Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it. An interesting and often overlooked aspect of what we find in the early Genesis account is picked up on by Beeke and that is Adam naming his wife Eve – the mother of all the living. Adam had faith that if they obeyed God and the covenant that was established in the Garden between God and man, they would indeed fill the earth and subdue it with Eve as the first woman and Adam as the first man being the parents if you will of all humanity. We also find an element of faith in the redemption of humanity after the fall with Eve naming her son Cain which as Beeke rightly notes means “the man from the Lord”. She believed this would be the progeny that would either bruise the heel of the serpent or through his line/seed, the Redeemer would arise. We of course know in hindsight that was not the case; however, the overarching point is she had faith God’s word and promises would come true.

The other examples Beeke utilizes to discuss faith are equally as interesting. He notes a number of events and actions in the lives of the individuals in question that truly point the reader to what childlike, submissive, mature, and persevering faith looks like in action. Faith becomes more than just a theological concept. In reading this book, one will begin to understand that faith and action go hand in hand. If we have faith in God and the promises made to us as His people in His Word, that faith will reflect itself in loving obedience to God’s commands we move to a place of maturity in the faith, submission to His divine rule in our lives, and as we persevere in the faith and our walk with God regardless of what life might throw our way.

This is a book I highly recommend. While there are certainly more lengthy tomes on faith that might explore each and every avenue of theological thought on this topic, Beeke’s book takes an approach that provides us with some helpful examples of faith in action. He helps the reader understand the progression of faith in our life as we grow in our relationship with God. We can use the lives of these individuals as a point of reflection. They are after all provided by God in His Word for a reason and perhaps that reason is for us to have some concrete examples we can relate to concerning godly faith in action. The material is biblically sound, the discussion questions provided at the end will give some more food for thought and aspects to study, and for that reason, I suggest if you want to grow in faith, pick up a copy of this book. It will be very helpful in your studies on faith and more importantly, it will serve as a seed that when planted, will cause your faith in God and your relationship with to blossom and grow to a place of maturity.

This book is available for purchase from Reformation Heritage Books by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Reformation Heritage Books via Cross Focused Reviews and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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