Growing up playing sports I had certain heroes that I idolized and always wanted to be like. In my brief stint in baseball (that would be anytime where there was no ability to cut me from the team) I idolized Tom Glavine. Left-handed pitcher, Cy Young Award winner, part of the great three from the Atlanta Braves. Every time I stepped on the mound I imagined myself being him. In weightlifting those heroes have changed over time but between Naim Suleymanoglu, Urik Vardanian, and Syzmon Kolecki, I was always watching and imagining that I moved like those guys. (Some of the weightlifters out there just laughed at me because of how different each of those lifters are but nonetheless I wanted to be just like them)
We do this with the Bible and with our Christian heroes as well. We look at Paul as a man worth imitating. Surely if there is somebody worth copying it’s the man who wrote half the New Testament is the greatest missionary to ever walk the earth. Or what about David, titled a man after God’s own heart who was so deeply intimate in his relationship with the Lord that God promised and sustained his lineage from which Jesus would come. Or one of my personal, nonbiblical heroes, Martin Luther who would give his life for the perseverance of the Holy Scriptures and proper understanding of faith during the Protestant Reformation. These are all men we look at, hope to imitate in many ways, and title as heroes of the faith.
All of these things are good. Certainly David, Paul, and Martin Luther lived lives lifting up the gospel of Jesus Christ. Certainly many of their habits, writing, and actions are worth imitating in our own lives. However, in our noble desire to honor these men for their work for the Gospel, we can miss a very important implication.
In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul points us to this reality. He says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” David reminds us in 1 Chronicles 29:11–12 that, “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.”
Each of these men, despite their honorable lives, were failures. David slept with another man’s wife only to get her pregnant and kill her husband in an attempt to cover it up. Paul was the modern day ISIS, seeking out Christians to imprison and murder. Some of Martin Luther’s words and anti-semetic views were not only filled with hate but made many question his salvation. Each of these men gave the world much to imitate but each of these men fail as worthwhile heroes. In fact, this is true of every man or woman who has ever walked the face of the planet except for one.
Second Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15, 1 John 3:5, among multiple multiple others, notes that there’s only been one Man, one Hero who never fails. That Man is the Lord Jesus Christ. Our heroes in the faith, those worth imitating will always fail us except the one true hero Jesus Christ. The good and the admirable that we see in so many men and women of the faith in the past and today are only meant to point us toward the one true King who has never failed. All of the men that I’ve listed, outside of Jesus, will make terrible Saviors. The heroes we love and idolize are meant to point us to Jesus. Jesus is the only hero who has ever lived and will ever live able to save us. Only Christ can save and for that reason is He the real hero of the Bible.