But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (NKJV)
In this portion, our writer changes focus. He has been dealing with his readers’ lack of growth and maturity, and warning them of the dangers of remaining stagnant. Having said all that, though, he goes on in this portion to assure them that he does have confidence that they truly belong to the Lord, though he spoke “in this manner.”
So, how does he know they’re “saved,” to use our phrase? Does he look to their “profession of faith,” or their baptism, or their church membership, or any of a number of other things we tend to look at?
Not at all.
These might have their place, but of these Hebrew believers our writer mentions their “work and labor of love,” v. 10.
By this, was he suggesting that these Jewish believers were saved by works? Of course not.
We’ve dealt with this in other posts, but need to bring it in here as well. There is quite a discussion in evangelical circles about the place of “faith” and “works.” Some insist that we’re saved by “faith alone,” and works have no place at all in our being saved. As long as we “believe,” that’s all that’s necessary. Others insist that we must have works along with faith in order to be saved. We must be baptized or keep the Sabbath or any number of others things besides or along with faith in order to be saved.
In his writings, Paul put it like this: For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love, Galatians 5:6.
“Faith” isn’t just some passive intellectual agreement with certain facts or teachings. It’s not about memorizing the Catechism. Nor is it some kind of experience by which we’re elevated to some mystical “higher plane of existence.” As we’ll see from Hebrews 11, faith is an active, obedient response to the Word of God. So it was with these believers in Hebrews 6.
While it’s true that they “ministered to the saints,” it was really toward God that they were showing love. This is the “motivation” of love, if you will. Not to gain divine favor, but because we’ve already received it. We’ve received it in such abundance that we can’t even begin to understand it.
Though the whole post won’t be finished for a few days, as I write this paragraph, yesterday was Christmas. Leaving out the celebrations of the world with Santa, red-nosed reindeer, decorations, parties, family get-togethers and what not, how much time do we really spend thinking about “Christmas”? We might have a “nativity set” on the mantel or out in the front yard. But it’s likely to share space with Santa or fancy lights or decorations, maybe a snow man or two. Things which Christmas is really about in our time.
There used to be a TV show in which those who entered a certain place were promised a “world of endless wonder.” That’s what Christmas is supposed to have – endless wonder that that little Babe was in reality the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. That Mary and Joseph were as dependent on Him as He was on them. That this little ignored, unknown Infant was in reality the Savior of the human race. That without Him, there is no hope and no future worth thinking about. Without Him, there’s not even a “present” worth bothering about. Not “present” as in “gift,” which is mostly what Christmas is about any more, but as in “the present” – “now,” “today.” And that He one day will return to this planet in glory and honor. All that, and infinitely more, is involved in what happened on that day so long ago. This is what Christmas is really about.
There are those who want to “keep Christ in Christmas.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but if we really understood that scene in the manger, we would say, “Nothing but Christ in Christmas.”
But, the writer continues, he doesn’t didn’t want his readers to “rest on their laurels,” as it were. He didn’t want them to become “sluggish,” but to “show the same diligence” toward the things of God they had started with. He wanted them to advance “to the full assurance of hope.”
Now, this “hope” doesn’t mean “hope so,” as in, say, buying a lottery ticket and “hoping” to win the jackpot. It’s a confident certainty about something. The writer will have more to say about this a little later.
He also wanted them to remember those in faith who had gone before, “those who through faith and patience inherit the promises,” v. 12. The purpose and promise of God concern so much more than the few minutes we walk on this earth.
Saying that, the writer focuses his attention on Abraham, the first one to receive the promises upon which Israel rested, vs. 13-18, promises themselves which “accompany salvation”. After he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise, v. 15. He “patiently endured.” Was he “perfect”? By no means! Did he do things which, in hindsight, would have been better left not done? Absolutely. We’ll have a lot more to say about Abraham, Lord willing, when we get to chapter 11. And we had a bit to say about him in our studies on Genesis, (for example https://nightlightblogdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/abraham-believed-god-genesis-15-romans-4/). Abraham waited years for the conception and birth of Isaac. For all his shortcomings, though, he never turned his back on or denied the God Who promised that son.
The thing I find almost unbelievable is in vs. 17 and 18: Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God, to lie, we might have strong consolation….
We live in a time where “God” has been brought down to our level, or even below it. We’re taught that we can mess up His will, or that “He’s done all He can do,” and now it’s up to us, or that He has to wait for us to “do our part” before He can do His part. In short, He’s been reduced to little more than a humble supplicant at the throne of the human will; He can’t do anything to or with us unless we are “willing.” I have a hard time even writing that of the God of the universe, but that’s an all-too-common view of Him.
However, Scripture says that God humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth! May I say that He humbles Himself even further in the things He’s willing to do to convince our stubborn, rebellious selves that He can be trusted.
There used to be a saying that I haven’t seen for a while: “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” The only trouble is that it’s not true. The emphasis is all wrong. God said it and that settles it, whether anyone believes it or not! A pagan king in the Old Testament had a higher concept of God than many “Bible-believing” Christians have today. In Daniel 4:34, 35, Nebuchadnezzar said, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. None can stay His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?'” Because of this, there are those who say that Nebuchadnezzar was saved, but there’s never any evidence that he called the God of the Bible “his” God. Indeed, in recounting all the experiences which led to the declaration of vs. 34, 35, he referred to Daniel as “Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god,” even though, in the same sentence, he admitted that “the Spirit of the Holy God” was in Daniel, Daniel 4:8 (emphasis added).
The writer says that “we” have hope. But this hope doesn’t include a promised land. Israel entered that land under Joshua, thus beginning a series of gains and losses until she lost it under the Romans until 1948, when she was again granted title to the land – not without continuing controversy and battle. If I read Zechariah 14 correctly, she’ll lose it again – this time seemingly for good. Until the Lord sets foot on the Mount of Olives.
No, no. The writer says that our hope lies in heaven, a strong consolation, v. 18, a hope both steadfast and sure, v. 19. And that hope is in a Person, even Jesus, who has become High Priest forever…, v. 20. It’s interesting that the writer has referred to the Lord as Prophet and now as Priest, but he never refers to Him as King. That’s because He still has work to do as Priest. Not only did the OT priest make the sacrifice of an animal, but, once a year, the High Priest had to bring the blood of a sacrifice into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle it on the mercy seat.
Now we don’t have an earthly tabernacle and mercy seat. And our High Priest doesn’t function with the pomp and ceremony of an earthly liturgy. Nor do we need an intermediary to approach the throne for us other than the Lord Jesus. Not only has the blood of the sacrifice been sprinkled on the mercy seat, but the very One whose blood it was sits there as well – interceding for those for whom that blood was shed. He is our hope, not us.
I don’t really know how to bring all this to a close. Shouldn’t the fact that “God said it” be enough for us? Without His having to take oath about it? I understand that unbelievers and skeptics won’t believe it. They’re just doing what comes naturally. But believers – that should be a different story.
God said it – that settles it.