Hebrews 11:8-12, 17-19, “The Faith of Abraham”

[8]By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would after receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  [9]By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; [10]for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
[11]By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who has promised.  [12]Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude – innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
[17]By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, [18]of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” [19]concluding that God was able to raise him us, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.  (NKJV)

(We believe that vs. 13-16 refers to people other than Abraham, though he may be included.  We’ll look at them in our next post.)

Abraham is one of the most-often-mentioned people in the Bible.  Indeed, his life forms the basis for a great deal of Biblical revelation and teaching, if not the majority of it.  Except for the Lord Jesus, perhaps no other person had more influence on the content of Scripture than Abraham.
In addition to Hebrews 11, there is Romans 4:16, which also mentions the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.  The term “father” isn’t used in the sense of “generation,” but of “relationship”.  Though the Bible doesn’t clearly support the term “spiritual Israel” to describe “the church,” it does clearly teach, to coin a phrase, that we are “spiritual Isaac,” Galatians 4:28.  That is, believers aren’t the children of Abraham “naturally,” but “spiritually.”
As the child bears a certain resemblance to the parent, so does “spiritual Isaac” resemble Abraham, particularly in the matter of his “faith.”  That we might not fall into the delusion that “faith” is mere intellectual acceptance of certain facts or doctrines, or that it is simply some sort of magic formula by which we may obtain our fondest desires, let’s look at what our text says about “the faith of Abraham”.

1. His faith did the impractical, vs. 8-10.

He left his native land (and family), v. 8.
His story begins in Genesis 12.  Ur was no insignificant little town, but a major metropolis of its day.  In v. 8, the thing that gets me about this move was that he didn’t know where he was going.

Have you ever thought about this?

Abraham comes home one day and says to Sarah,”Start packing.  We’re going to move!”  And Sarah replies, “Oh?  Where?”  And Abraham says to her, “I don’t know.”  And then, when the moving camels begin to appear around their home, the neighbors ask, “Where you going?”  And they reply, “We don’t know.”

There’s something else.

He lived inas in a foreign country“, v. 9.
Though it was his by promise, he never owned any of it, except for a parcel of land where he buried Sarah and some of his descendants buried their dead, Genesis 49:29-33; 50:12, 13.
In the words of the old Gospel song, “This world is not my home,” though I think we tend to forget that.  One day, that house we spend so much time fixing up, or that car that we think so much of – all gone!  Or if they’re not, we will be.

2. His faith believed the impossible, vs. 11, 12, 19.

The story of this is found in Genesis 17 and 18.  Abraham and Sarah had been married long enough for it to become evident that she was barren.  God promised Abraham a son, Genesis 17:1-8.  In all fairness to Sarah, considering what happened with Hagar before the birth of that son, God didn’t specifically say that Abraham would have a son through Sarah. Since she was his wife, though, that might be taken for granted.  He did specifically mention her after the birth of Ishmael, Genesis 18:10, more than thirteen years later.
What Sarah did was a common practice of the day.  Indeed, later on, four of Jacob’s twelve sons were born to women in situations similar to Hagar, Genesis 29, 30.
I guess this serves a lesson to be careful about how we approach the promises of God.  Perhaps it serves to remind us that, when we can’t figure out how God is going to do something, or if it seems that He’s not doing anything, we better not try to figure out how we are going to do it.  After all, the current uproar in the Middle East is a direct result of what they did all those centuries ago.  Something common, acceptable and legal.
It’s true that Hebrews doesn’t mention all this.  God doesn’t deny the faults and failings of His people, but He doesn’t dwell on them like the world does, and He doesn’t define them by their shortcomings.  Perhaps there’s a lesson for us in this, as well.  We’re not defined by the mess we tend to make of things, but by the grace and mercy of God.  There are no “self-made” Christians.

3. His faith did the inexplicable, vs. 17, 18.

The world has a huge amount of difficulty with this episode, recorded in Genesis 22:1-19.  I even heard a character on TV ask, “What kind of a father does that to his son?””

The answer: the kind of father that Abraham was.

You see, Genesis isn’t all that’s said about this.  Hebrews 11 gives us a look “behind the scenes,” if you will, into the mind of Abraham, though Genesis does give us a glimpse there.  When Abraham was giving instructions to the two men who accompanied him and his son, as they were being left behind while Abraham and Isaac continued on, Abraham said, “The lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back,” Genesis 22:5.  Actually, it loses a lot in translation.  The sentence shows strong determination.   What Abraham really said was, “We are determined to go, we are determined to worship, we are determined to return.”

And notice that Abraham rose early in the morning  to be obedient to God.  There was no half-hearted or reluctant response, though God hadn’t made it “easy” for him:  “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love…,” Genesis 22:2.
1. He didn’t argue that this was inconsistent with or nullified the promise of a lot of descendants.
2. He believed God could do something that no one had ever yet seen – resurrect a dead body, Hebrews 11:19.  That’s how he was able to say, “We will return….”
3. Though Isaac wasn’t actually killed, he was sacrificed!

There are some misconceptions about the part Isaac played in all this.  Just yesterday, I saw a picture where he’s shown as 10 or 12 or so, with Abraham’s arm around him.  It’s a common view, if not the usual one.

For the last part of the journey, Isaac himself carried the wood, Genesis 22:6.  This wasn’t just a couple of sticks.  And when it came time for Abraham to prepare him for the sacrifice, based on the fact he was able to carry a heavy load up a mountain, Isaac would have been well able to defend himself and prevent it.  He was a willing participant.  This shows a great respect for and trust in his father.  Perhaps also for the God of his father, Genesis 22:8.  What do you suppose passed between father and son when God did indeed provide for Himself the lamb?  Do you think they had any trouble “worshiping”?  Needed any special “music”?  Do you think Isaac ever forgot those moments?

Somehow, we’ve gotten the idea that faith is “easy.”  And maybe “faith” as the world defines it is.  A few little religious formalities.  Or even a lot of them.  An ornate religious building.  Special days and seasons of the year.  But the “faith of Abraham” isn’t so easy.  Our Lord said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it,” Matthew 16:24, 25.

“Take up his cross.”  I think we misunderstand this, too.  Perhaps a long-suffering spouse with a less than ideal spouse might think this is a “cross” to bear.  Perhaps some situation in life – health problems, financial difficulties, or some other burden.  We’ve never seen a cross, at least as it was used in executions.  We’ve prettied it all up and made it respectable, but it was an ugly thing.  It wasn’t a “burden of life;” it was an instrument of death!

Picture a condemned man carrying a cross to his execution.  In the crowd watching him, he might see his wife and children.  He might pass some friends.  He might pass his place of business or where he had worked.  He might have made plans for the future.

None of this mattered.

He was carrying his cross.

At the same time, to “carry our cross” doesn’t mean that we simply abandon everything and go out into the desert somewhere.  It does mean that if there’s something preventing us from serving God as He would have us serve Him, we do have to abandon that.  We have to “deny ourselves.”

And, no, it’s not easy.

4. His faith received the immeasurable, v. 12; Romans 4:13.

Abraham gave up a great deal, and was willing to give up even more.  Did he lose?

Not in the least.

He was promised –

An innumerable family, Genesis 22:12.

God used two figures to show the number of Abraham’ posterity:
1. stars of the sky.  We’ve dealt with this in another post, so will just recap here.  Even as late as the 17th Century, men had only catalogued a little over a thousand stars.  It wasn’t until January 7, 1610, with the first telescope, that Galileo began the discovery that the stars are indeed innumerable.
I can imagine what the “science” of Abraham’s day might have said – and yes, I know I’m reading into the text here – “That’s not possible!  That’s not scientific!”  So God uses another figure.
2. sand which by the seashore.  Of course, I suppose that science and rationalism, in whatever form they might have taken back then, would exclaim, “Aha!  There are contradictions in the Bible!” – just like they do today.  “There are only a few stars!  Nothing at all like the sand of the sea!”  But now we know that God was right.  And the skeptics were wrong.

He still is.  And they still are.

An inconceivable future, Romans 4:13.

Paul wrote that Abraham was promised that he would be heir of the world.  This isn’t the place to get into a lengthy discussion of the different views of prophecy.  I’ve done that in several other posts.
Let’s just leave it with 2 Peter 3:13, we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, [or, “is at home”].

I can’t wait!

Hebrews 11:1-7, Living By Faith

[1]Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  [2]For by it, the elders obtained a good testimony.
[3]By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
[4]By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
[5]By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.  [6]But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
[7]By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not seen as yet, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (NKJV)

Hebrews 11 gives a far different view of “life” with reference to God that most seem to realize.  The writer gives us some examples of the faith he mentioned starting in 10:38.  “Faith” has little, if anything, to do with “prosperity,” but with “perspective.”  True faith enables us to looks at things the way God looks at them, which may be quite different, even opposed, to the way the world looks at them.  In the verses before us, we see five instances of “faith.”
1. the elders, v. 2, that is, the Old Testament saints in general, from whom the writer picks some particular examples.

“good testimony”.  Or “good report,” as the KJV has it.  Perhaps we misunderstand these words.  Especially in our day, what is called Christianity goes out of its way to find broad acceptance and understanding, with some going so far as to “dialogue” with Islam and other world religions.  “Inter-faith” is the current buzzword.  This viewpoint is unBiblical.  While we certainly aren’t to try to be divisive, the only way we can find acceptance with an ungodly world in the things of God is to be unfaithful to the things of God.
Perhaps vs. 33-38 throws a little light on this “report:”  the world despised these OT saints.  That is a good report.  Cf. Luke 6:22-26.

2. creation, v. 3.  There is an important principle in this verse as the writer starts where God starts, namely, with the origin of all things.  The world says that all things just happened, with a mindless, meaningless development from nothing into “here we are today.”  Science tells us that everything in the universe began “as a condensed droplet of matter at an extremely high density and temperature.”  (Robert Jastrow, Red Giants and White Dwarfs, p. 51).  Known today as the “big bang theory,” it was first put forth in 1931 by a Father Lemaitre, a Belgian astronomer educated as a Jesuit priest.  Allegedly, because of enormous internal pressure, this “drop of matter” rapidly expanded and things developed, over billions of years, into that which we see around us today.  This includes “us”.

There are some things, however, which this elaborate theory never addresses.  Where, for example, did this primordial “drop” come from?  It just suddenly “appeared”?  Further, where did it appear?  As I understand the theory, before the appearance of this drop, there was nothing.  But wouldn’t this include “space” itself?  There was nowhere for this nothing to suddenly begin becoming something.
This, of course, is a simple version of a complex viewpoint.  Basically, though, it gets rid of any idea of “God” and leaves us at the top of the food chain, so to speak.  There is no higher being to whom we are accountable.  There are no absolutes, no sin, and certainly no need for redemption and a Redeemer.

On the other hand, “faith” simply accepts the record of Genesis 1:1, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Thousands of books and millions of words have been written about all this.  The few hundred words of this post won’t settle the issue.

“Faith” says that it’s already been settled.

The word translated “understand” is in the present tense.  There will never be a time in this life where faith isn’t necessary as to the origin of things.  This is not to say that there isn’t “evidence” for the various “-ologies” of science, but an evolutionist  and a creationist will look at the same evidence – the world around us, with its marvelous unity, intricacy and complexity – and arrive at opposing conclusions.

The word translated “worlds” is not “kosmos,” but “aionas”.  “Kosmos” refers to the world from the standpoint of its place in space; “aion” considers it from the standpoint of time.  There are those who say that the words are synonymous here.  I don’t think so.  We’re very limited in our perception and understanding.  This evil world is but a dust-mote in the vast reaches of space, and it’s history the merest twinkle in view of eternity.  Paul wrote of “God’s eternal purpose,” Ephesians 3:11, “the ages to come,” Ephesians 2:7, “all ages,” Ephesians 3:21.  God has dealt with the whole as well as with each part, and each part has its place and purpose in the whole.  Every event is but a single note in the eternal symphony to the glory of God.

Finally, though there is much more we could say about this, we’re told that what we see was made out of things we can’t see.  How did the “ignorant” writers of the Bible know this?  How were they able to reduce the whole spectrum of theoretical physics to this simple sentence?

3. Abel, v. 4.  Note especially the phrase, “more excellent.”  Cain’s offering wasn’t rejected because it was of inferior quality or shoddy workmanship.  No doubt, Cain worked hard with his crops and gave of his very best.  Cain was rejected because he tried to do things his way.  Abel was accepted because he did things God‘s way.

4. Enoch, vs. 5, 6.  Though he’s mentioned a couple of other times in the Old Testament, six verses in Genesis are all that’s told us of this man:  Genesis 5:18, 19, 21-24.  There’s just enough to whet our curiosity.  We’re told only that after he begot Methuselah, he walked with God, v. 22.  What happened to turn him around?  What was it about this birth or this child that changed his life?  We’re not told – only that he pleased God.  No one could ask for a better “testimony”.

5. Noah, v. 7.  Our earlier post on Noah and the Flood goes into more detail on this event.  Here the writer simply refers to Noah’s motivation: “godly fear,” and the result of his labor:  the destruction of the world.   He condemned the world because he believed God and they didn’t.

Hebrews 10:38-11:1, “The Just Shall Live By Faith”

[10:38]“Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”  [39]But we are not of those who draw back, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
[11:1]Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  (NKJV)

We haven’t particularly noted the change in emphasis in the book, which occurs in 10:19.  The first portion was basically an explanation of the preeminence of the Lord Jesus, both as the Revelation of God and as the Redeemer of His people.  From 10:19, the writer in effect answers the question, “So what?” – what does this mean to the believer – or to the unbeliever, for that matter?
As for the believer, there are responsibilities to God, to ourselves and to others, 10:22-24.  For the unbeliever, there is only “judgment and fiery indignation,” 10:27.
To his readers, the writer urges that they remember all that they have suffered for the Gospel’s sake, and not to throw it all away, but to persevere under God’s will, looking for the coming of the Lord Jesus, vs. 32-37.  In 6:12 and in 10:22, 23, the writer mentions “faith,” especially in reference to the “promises.”  Now he continues with that theme.
In our portion, we note two sections:

1. The Necessity of Faith, 10:38, 39.
2. The Nature of Faith, 11:1.

  1. The Necessity of Faith, 10:38, 39.

In quoting from Habakkuk 2:3, 4, in the Old Testament, the writer again shows that he isn’t introducing something “foreign” to the Word of God.  Even in the Old Testament, faith was essential.

Seen in the Bible, v. 38.
1. witness, the just shall live by faith.  We hear much today about “exercising faith,” but the writer isn’t referring to some sort of “decision” in which a person “decides” for Christ, although there is a time in the life of God’s people when they are brought to faith in Him.  No one is “born saved.”  “Faith” doesn’t refer to a one-time act which “seals the deal,” but to a “life:” the just shall live by faith.  This “life” is characterized by daily reliance on and obedience to God.  To such a one, there is no division between sacred and secular.  He is the same on Monday as he is on Sunday, and lives his life in the light of God’s eternal Word and not in the ephemeral “fads” of today.  Such a one knows that “contemporary Christianity” is likely to be a contradiction of terms.
2. warning, if any man draw back….  The word translated “draw back” here means “to shrink,” “to withdraw,” and doesn’t refer to a momentary stumbling from weakness (as Peter in Galatians 2:12, where the same word is translated, “withdrew”).  It refers to a habitual character, a settled determination.  Such a one was never truly saved, but is a spiritual descendant of those mentioned in John 2:23-25.  These are solemn verses.  May we hear what they say to us:
Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.  But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.
On the surface, these verses seem to speak of great success for our Lord: “Many believed in His name,” v. 23.  Many would rejoice today in such a result and do rejoice and even boast in their abilities and of the “success” of their ministries.  However, vs. 24, 25 follow v. 23 and warn us that all that glitters is not gold, and not all “belief” leads to salvation.
The words “believed,” v. 23, and “commit,” v. 24 are translations of the same word.  Many “believed” in Jesus, but He did not “believe” in them.  How can this be?  The answer is given in v. 24:  Jesus knew what is in man.
Jesus didn’t need a “testimony meeting” about their “belief.”  He didn’t need them to “like and share” a Facebook meme about how much they loved God, or to type “amen” to it.  He knew men, that they are easily swayed and deceived.  These men were following Him only because of His miracles.  He was “ministering to their needs.”  Now, there’s nothing wrong with that in itself, but as soon as Jesus began to press spiritual truths on His hearers, they left in great numbers, John 6:60-66.
We see a similar example of this in John 8:30-59.  In v. 30, many believed in Him.  But by the end of the chapter, these “believers” took up stones to throw at Him, v. 59.
If we dilute the message in order to have a “greater” ministry, then we’re only deceiving ourselves and those who follow us.
My soul shall have no pleasure in him.  Here is the crux of the matter.  Our main audience isn’t those men and women who hear us, or read our posts, but God Himself.  We do indeed have a responsibility to those who hear or follow us – a very great responsibility.  Spurgeon used to say that the idea of the multitudes who listened to him crushed him to the ground.  It is no small thing to serve in eternal realities.  Even Paul was moved by this: who is sufficient for these things? 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.  And it is no small thing to listen to eternal realities.  Over and over again, our Lord warned those who heard Him to pay attention to how and what they heard.  Woe to us if we only dabble in these things!

Seen in the Believer, v. 39.
As with similar statements in the book (6:4-6, etc.) the writer boldly states that what he has said about “drawing back” doesn’t refer to his readers, whom he describes as “believing to the saving of the soul.”  The word translated “saving” is interesting:  one aspect of its meaning is “to preserve.”  The word itself is a compound of two words literally meaning “to make around,” and perhaps refers to the preservation and protection of something by its being enclosed.
Here, then, is the glorious teaching of the “preservation of the saints.”  And note, this preservation is through faith.  We’re not kept by what we do, but, as Peter put it, we are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, 1 Peter 1:5.  We are preserved by what God has done on our behalf.

2. The Nature of Faith, 11:1

 This verse is not a definition of faith, although it’s often quoted as such.  It’s a description of faith and its results in the life of the believer.  It expands what the writer meant when he wrote, “the just shall live by faith,” examples of which follow in the rest of the chapter.  Salvation is so much more that mere consent to a creed, or agreement with a few historical or doctrinal facts.  Salvation is life from the dead, spiritual resurrection by the power of God, spiritual energy by the Spirit of God, energy leading to activity with reference to God, not just to “religion.”

Faith does not boast of its claims on God, as certain people teach.  It recognizes God’s claim on it!  It doesn’t say, “God, this is what I want you to do!” as if God were no more than our servant, anxiously hovering around until we give Him something to do.  No, no.  It says with Paul on the Damascus Road, “What do you want me to do?”

The just shall live by faith.

Hebrews 10:32-39, Don’t Forget

[32]But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: [33]partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulation, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; [34]for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.  [35]Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. [36]For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:  [37]“For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.  [38]Now the just shall live by faith, but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”  [39]But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but to those who believe to the saving of the soul.

The writer is concluding his most serious warning.  He has shown that to “sin willfully” after we have received “knowledge of the truth” is to invite certain destruction.  From these verses and the substance of the New Covenant, we understand “sinning willfully” to be departure from the truth.  In Hebrews 10:16, the writer quotes God as saying of those saved under the New Covenant. “I will put my law into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.”  While the New Covenant has not yet been fully or completely realized, still for a person to reject God’s word is certain evidence that God has not worked His word into that person’s heart and mind.

The writer tells us, therefore, that it isn’t a matter of being “broad-minded.”  It is not a matter of being “narrow-minded.”  It is essential that we understand that it is a matter of being scripturallymindedWhat does the Scripture say? Romans 4:3.  To the law and to the testimony!  If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them, Isaiah 8:20.  The final authority for and source of the things we believe – and how we are to live in this world – are not church councils, nor creeds or catechisms, not some preacher or “personality,” not even government edicts (though the latter has derived authority from God, Romans 13:1-7), our final authority is the Word of God.

We need to recapture the Berean spirit:  they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scripture daily to find out whether [the things taught by Paul] were so, Acts 17:11.   It will not go well with us when we stand before God if we know the cable listings better than we know the Word.

In the midst of these warnings, the writer hasn’t forgotten to whom he is writing.  In chapter 6, he told them he thought better things of them than that they were “barren ground” and ready for judgment.  Here he does the same thing.  He reminds them of the

1. witness of the trouble they had already suffered, 10:32-34.
2. words of testimony concerning the future, 10:35-37.
3. warning against trivializing the place and importance of faith, 10:38, 39.

  1. Witness, 10:32-34.

Their affliction for the faith, vs. 32-34a.
1. the cause of their affliction, v. 32, after you were illuminated.  Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:3-6.  The light of the Gospel had overcome the darkness in which they lived – that darkness put forth by the devil in opposition to the things of God.  We know this had happened to the Hebrews because of what follows in vs. 32-34.
2. the content of their affliction, vs. 32b-34a.
a). they themselves were ridiculed, v. 33.
They had suffered reproach and ridicule.
b). they associated with others with similar afflictions, vs. 33-34.  Not only others, but the writer himself.  Some have supposed from this that Paul is the author of Hebrews, but he wasn’t the only one “in bonds” for the sake of the Gospel.  I don’t know why Christians are surprised at the persecution of other Christians.  True, we haven’t seen so much of that until recently, but the history of believers down through the ages has more often than not been written in their own blood.  What is happening today in the Middle East and, I’m afraid, will happen in this country, is nothing new.  And it will continue, and likely get worse, until the Lord returns and straightens this old world out.
But there’s something else.

Their assurance in the faith, v. 34b.
Cf. 1 Peter 1:3-5 and Matthew 6:19-21.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking this life to be all-in-all and to live accordingly.  Indeed, there are many false prophets whose message is just that: health and prosperity.  The Hebrews would have known nothing of such things; their “prosperity” was of a different kind.  They were able to rejoice in the losing of earthly possession because they knew that the enemy couldn’t touch their heavenly possessions.
We’ll see from chapter 11 that God’s people have always built for the future, though not unmindful of the present.  Perhaps these Hebrews were beginning to look at their “loss,” not realizing it really to be their “gain.”  Cf. Mark 10:29-31.
On the other hand, it’s not merely a future of “mansions” and “streets of gold” that are to be our focus.  It will be the Lord Jesus Himself who will make heaven “heaven.”  These other things are merely “benefits,” if you will, of knowing Him.  Oh, let us be occupied with Him and not just with His “gifts.”

2. Words of Testimony, 10:35-37.

Perception, v. 35.  Contrast this verse with 10:22, “draw near” with “do not cast away” and “full assurance of faith” with “confidence.”  Perhaps these Hebrews were being lured back into the old ways of thinking about the sacrificial system, which could neither “take away sins” or give abiding “rest” for their souls.  The writer urges them not to do this.  Not only could the Levitical system not save them, but their turning away from Christ would bring them increased judgment!  Cf. vs. 26-31.

Patience, v. 36.  They weren’t to return to the familiar and beloved things of the past, but were patiently to live in the present in light of the will of God and His promise.  Nowhere does the Bible encourage us to settle down and become at home in this world.  Uniformly it warns us against that and tells us to look ahead to a different and better time.  Read 1 Peter through carefully for insight on this, both as to the reality of present suffering and of future glory.  See also 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.  Basically, the writer of Hebrews is telling them, “Don’t have gone through all you have already gone through for nothing.”

Promise, v. 37.  The “promise” of God centers around and will be fulfilled at the Coming of Christ, though the effects of all He had done will echo throughout eternity, Ephesians 2:7.  We may not understand all the Scriptures tell us of that Coming, but always desire to have the spirit of the last prayer in the Bible: even so, come, Lord Jesus.

3. Warning, 10:38, 39.

We’re not to trivialize or think lightly about faith.  It gives a different, a correct, perspective about what is going on around us.  It always point us forward, not to an improvement in or by ourselves, but to the coming of the Lord Jesus.  It’s interesting that the writer quotes a portion from the Old Testament to demonstrate his point.  And the New Testament tells us there will be coming a time in which unbelievers will say, “Where is the promise of His coming?” 2 Peter 3:4.  That promise is right here.  “The just shall live by faith” is in reference to and in light of that promise.  We may be very concerned about who the next President may be in our country – and I think that’s a valid concern, but the truth is, the only real hope for this world is the return of the Lord Jesus.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Hebrews 10:26-31, Truth or Consequences

[26]For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, [27]but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.  [28]Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  [29]Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?  [30]For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is mine,” says the LORD.  And again, “The LORD will judge His people.”  [31]It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  (NKJV)

We have written that the warnings of Hebrews are connected and cumulative and that to ignore them is to invite certain destruction.  We’ve pointed out that these warnings focus on an attitude with reference to the truths of Scripture.  This attitude begins with a casual attitude toward the things of God and ends with a forsaking of them altogether.  But the “things of God” impinge on eternity and we ought to be interested in the fact that we’re all hurrying toward eternity as fast as we can, notwithstanding the fact that sometimes it seems like a snail’s pace.
I’m 75 years old as I write this.  Now I don’t feel old until I begin to realize how long ago some things happened.  And how quickly it seems I’ve gotten from there to here.  And one of these days, folks will gather around at a “memorial service” and, I hope, have some good things to say.  But the thing is, I won’t be there.  I’ll have gone from the place where time is measured in ticks of a clock to a place where it’s measured in the passing of ages.  What I’ve done here will have an effect of what happens there.  And, one day, that will be true for you, as well.  (If you’ve recently experienced the passing of a loved one, I’m truly sorry.  I don’t mean to add to that.)
So you see, it’s important to pay attention as we travel through this life.  That’s what the writer to the Hebrews wanted them, and wants us, to remember.  That’s why there is so much warning in the book, like the one before us.

1. Statement of the warning, v. 26a

At least from v. 25 goes with this warning, and perhaps from v. 19.  This warning tells us that there’s more to it than just “going to church.”  It includes faithfulness and perseverance in “holding fast the confession of our faith.”  It includes what we are and do on Monday as well as what we do on Sunday.  It’s not just about which day of the week we “worship,” but rather that we “worship” every day of the week.
By “worship,” I don’t mean that we’re go to church every day, or that we have the right kind of “worship music,” with guitars and loud drums.  No, no.  The word “worship” comes from an older word:  “worthship.”   It was used as a title, “your worthship,” a title of respect and honor, whether those addressed were “worthy” of it or not.  So, when we say that we “worship God,” it’s not talking about routine or ritual or raucous music.  It’s talking about an attitude of respect and honor for God.  And if this respect isn’t shown by the general attitude and actions of our lives every day of the week, then it doesn’t mean anything on one day of the week.

2. Seriousness of the warning, vs. 26b-31.

 There are three parts to this warning.

1.  the absence of a “sacrifice for sin” if the truth is rejected, v. 26.
2.  the avowal of judgment on “adversaries,” vs. 27-29.
3.  the assurance of God’s vengeance, vs. 30-31.

1. the absence of a “sacrifice for sin” if the truth is rejected, v. 26.  This verse tells us that more than “church attendance” is involved.  “The knowledge of the truth” is involved, and “willful sin,” we believe in regard to the things mentioned in vs. 26-31.  The way of access to God is involved, vs. 19-21.  The life we are to lead with regard to faith and obedience is involved, vs. 22, 23.  Our interest in and concern for other members of “the assembly” is involved, vs. 24, 25.
Many professing Christians, to say nothing of those of the world, reject all these ideas.  They say, “You’re too narrow and old-fashioned, too exclusive in what you teach about the approach to God.  All roads lead to heaven.  Every religion worships God in their own way.”  They say, “we will decide how to live our lives.  We’re under grace; no legalist can make rules for us!”  They say, “We’re not supposed to judge or be judgmental.  We wouldn’t dream of imposing our personal views on others.”  And so, through the traditions and unbelief of men, the Word of God is made of no effect.
But if you reject God ‘s way, there is no other way!  There is no sacrifice for sin, no forgiveness.  To reject God’s way is still to be in our sins.  If we live without God, we will die without God.  Oh!  Be warned!  There is no other “sacrifice for sins,” but God’s sacrifice, Jesus Christ!  There is no other way but God’s way – except the way that leads to hell!

2. the avowal of certain judgment on “adversaries,” vs. 27-29.  Contrary to the belief of many, there is no such thing as “neutrality” in spiritual matters, Matthew 12:30.  Many who believe they have merely rejected some “fundamentalist Bible-thumper” may one day discover that they have really rejected God.  Call them what you will – “backslidden,” “carnal Christian,” whatever – God says that those who turn away from “the knowledge of the truth” are His adversaries and will be dealt with as such.
The thing in particular which infuriates God is the rejection of the sacrifice of His Son, which He calls “trampling” Him “underfoot.  This rejection includes “insulting” the Holy Spirit, Who enabled Him to go through with the Crucifixion, Hebrews 9:14, and carefully supervised all those things leading up to the Crucifixion to insure that God’s purpose in the Crucifixion would be carried out.
Is not this a great warning to our culture?  We live in a time of great “toleration,” where it seems that everything except the truth is to be accepted.  In the US, there is no “established church,” for which we thank God and our forefathers, but this has meant that a tremendous variety of religious viewpoints has developed.  Because we have no such religious “central authority” to tell us what to believe, this is taken to mean that we can believe what we like, or not believe anything at all.
With reference to salvation, some have rejected “the blood” altogether, and so come under condemnation, but what about those who might teach “salvation through blood,” but also believe that you can lose that salvation?  Some of these are always talking about “the Spirit,” the “gifts of the Spirit,” “the ministry of the Spirit,” being “filled with the Spirit.”  Is it possible that they actually “insult” the Spirit because they deny the power of Christ’s sacrifice and the Spirit’s work to save believers?
And what of those who teach that Jesus died for all men without exception, and that men can resist the utmost efforts of the Spirit to bring them to salvation?  Isn’t this also “trampling under foot the Son of God,” and insulting the Spirit of grace?
You see, “the knowledge of the truth” is more involved than we might at first think.  Most of those who hold the above views believe that they do so with the warrant of Scripture.  But the question isn’t, “can we point to one or two ‘proof-texts’, but rather “do we know the truth”?

3. the assurance of God’s vengeance, vs. 30-32.  The reason all this is important is that there is a day of judgment coming.  All roads do not lead to heaven.  I’m afraid the God of Scripture is as unknown today as He was to the Athenians when Paul preached to them, Acts 17:23.  These verses in Hebrews are solemn indeed for a generation of church people who apparently are almost totally ignorant of or in opposition to the God of heaven.

Hebrews 10:15-26, Life, Liberty and Pursuit

[15]But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,
[16]This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD:  I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,”   [17]Then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”  [18]Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
[19]Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, [20]by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,  [21]and having a High Priest over the house of God [22]let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  [23]Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  [24]And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, [25]not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (NKJV)

In our last posts, we have seen that the First Covenant was a two-fold preparation for the New Covenant.

1. with reference to the people – to show them that sinful men and women cannot come into the presence of a holy God on the basis of their own merit or works.  The OT sacrifices were designed to teach the truth of salvation by substitution and sacrifice.  The animal substitute took the place of the Israelite sinner.  The animal was physically perfect, the Israelite spiritually blemished and imperfect.  The animal died, the Israelite lived.

2. with reference to God – the OT period was a time in which God prepared the effectual sacrifice to which all the OT sacrifices pointed – the physical body of the Lord Jesus.  His is the only sacrifice which could – and did – take away sins.
As we look at the text for this post, we see three things:

1.  the liberty we have to approach God, vs. 15-21.
2.  the life we are to lead before God, vs. 22-25.
3.  the lesson we must pay attention to about God, v. 26.

1. Liberty, 10:15-21.

Since we’ve already dealt with these at length, we’ll only mention a couple of things.
God’s covenant, vs. 15-18.  This is God’s promise to do a work in His people, v. 16, as well as for them, vs. 17, 18.
Jesus’ person and work, v. 19-21.  This with particular reference to His sacrifice for sin, vs. 19, 20, and His priesthood “over the house of God,” v. 21.  Only by the grace of God and never by human initiative, merit or effort do we ever have an audience with or blessing from God, vs. 19, 20.

2. Life, 10:22-25.

Let us draw near,” v. 22.  Let us use and enjoy that inestimable privilege of coming into God’s presence, a privilege not given to any other people under heaven.  There are, however, certain requirements which come with the exercise of this privilege:
1. “a true heart” – a heart in which God has worked, v. 16.  A heart God has cleansed.  A heart in which God’s word is preeminent.  A heart (and mind) in which God has written His word, according to the promises of the New Covenant.  A heart not taken with the things of this world, but living with eternity in view.
It’s often charged that the view espoused by this blog and those who agree with it, that we are guilty of “antinomianism,” that is, we teach that one can live like they want to, without regard for what God says.  Unfortunately, there are those who live like that as a result of what they call “salvation by grace.”  However, this isn’t what is meant at all.  As we’ve mentioned before, the OT Law was an external code, though it did deal with such things as envy and covetousness, and our relationships with others.  And if you want to include the entire code as expressed in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, and not just a few verses in Exodus – may I just say that there is a great deal more “justice” – how we’re to deal with and treat others – in those pages that in most of what passes for it today in our legal system.  But that’s probably another series of posts.
The New Covenant deals with what we are.  The Old Covenant dealt mostly with what Israel did. As we’ve seen, the Old Covenant had no provision of “assistance” in obeying it, Deuteronomy 29:4.  The New Covenant says that believers are God’s workmanship, Ephesians 2:10, and we are given the Holy Spirit to make sure there’s some evidence of that.
2. “full assurance of faith.”  This is not the same thing as “assurance of salvation,” the current way of putting things.  The Puritans understood this, as well, that if a person has faith, he is saved.  They were concerned with the “assurance of faith.”  Faith is the means of salvation.  Too often, we think of “being saved” as something else.
For example, a couple from a local church visited us.  The lady in particular was interested in witnessing to us.  My side of the conversation echoed what I post on this blog, that the focus of our being saved isn’t about what we do, but about what the Lord Jesus did for sinners on the Cross.  I appreciate her concern and her effort, but I might as well have been talking to the chair she sat on.  Before they left, she was very concerned about whether or not I had “prayed the prayer.”  Her entire focus was on what I had done, not on the Lord Jesus.  But I suppose that’s to be expected in a culture in which it’s believed that “God’s done all He can do, and now it’s up to you.”

According to the writer, what exactly is “full assurance of faith”?  He lists a couple of things:
1.  our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.  During various OT rituals, “the water of purification” was sprinkled over people and things.  This cleansed them ceremonially, but really did nothing about their sins or their sinfulness.  But the OT also prophesies of a time when God will cleanse Israel of her filthiness and her idols and put a new heart and spirit within her, Ezekiel 36:25, 26.  This will be as a result of the one sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.  Believers enter into this by grace, knowing that our sins were once and forever taken care of on the Cross, and that we ourselves have been “born again.”
2.  our bodies washed with pure water.  In other words, obedience in baptism.  And apparently more is required than just a drop or two of water on an unknowing infant’s forehead: bodies washed with pure water.  The Lord commanded believer’s baptism in Matthew 28:18-20.  The apostles and disciples baptized only believers.  Even in “household” baptisms, it’s evident that the word was first preached and then those who believed were baptized.  There’s a lot of assumption that in some of these households, there must have been infants – and the assumption is that these were baptized along with the rest of the household.  I’ve dealt with all this before in my series on infant baptism – if you’re interested, you can go there:  https://nightlightblogdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/infant-baptism-a-study-in-three-parts-the-great-commission-and-apostolic-practice/ (This will take you to the first of the three studies.)
We grant that historically, and even in many places today, to be baptized was and is an invitation to persecution and even death.  But our Lord has something to say about those who don’t love their life even to the extent of being willing to die, Mark 8:35; Revelation 12:11.  Hebrews was written to a people for whom the ordinance of baptism was a clear break with everything in their past.
Baptism was never meant simply to be the subject of debate.  It was meant to be the first step of obedience in a believer’s life.  It was the first step in a changed life.

Let us hold fast“, v. 23.  Wait a minute!  Doesn’t this verse contradict v. 22?  How can we have “full assurance” if we have to “hold fast”?  After all, aren’t we just supposed to “let go and let God”?
Not at all.  That heart and life in which God has worked, v. 16, will hold onto God, cf. John 6:66-68.  See also 1 Timothy 6:12.  V. 23 draws our attention to the faithfulness of God.  Our “assurance” is not that we’ll be saved if we’re “faithful to the end.”  Our assurance, based on vs. 16-18, is that if God has worked in our hearts and lives to bring us to Jesus Christ and has made His word real and precious to us – our assurance in such a case is that we will be saved because God is faithful.  We couldn’t keep ourselves saved for five minutes!  Hold fast our profession of faith in God, not in ourselves!

Let us consider one another“, vs. 24.  The problem with having to “hold on faithful to the end” is that we’re always thinking about ourselves.  Have we been “good enough”?  Have we “done” enough?  But this verse shows us that we’re not to be “self-centered,” but “saint-centered”.
Vs. 24, 25 give a good description of Christian love.  It’s not a “hands-off, pat-you-on-the back” regardless of how you live or what you believe.  True love cares enough to confront those things which are not in line with Scripture.  In the culture in which we live, this has become vitally important.  Today it’s all about “inter-faith” dialogue and cooperation.  This is simply the fruition of the “ecumenical movement” begun decades ago.  Paul addressed this situation in a church which prided itself on its “tolerance:” Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  For what fellowship [interests-in-common] has righteousness with lawlessness?  And what communion has light with darkness?  And what accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15.  How can those who say they believe in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus “cooperate” with those which deny Him or teach that the Cross is a “monstrous falsehood”?

3. Pursuit, v. 26.

 Without wishing to lapse into the heresy that salvation can be lost, let us at the same time strongly emphasize the Biblical teaching that grave responsibilities are entered into by those who profess the name of the Lord Jesus.  We are dealing with eternal issues in Christianity, issues which will save or damn men’s souls.  It is never just a matter of opinion: “That’s what you believe,” or “It doesn’t matter what you believe.”  Nor is it simply a matter of opportunity:  “Well, yes, I believe in Jesus, but there are too many other things I have to take care of.”  Christianity is a matter of “orthodoxy,” which is not what the church or scholars or theologians say it is, but what God says it is.  It’s not about this or that “church” or this or that denomination.

And “orthodoxy” contains serious warnings.  There is one in v. 26.

Verse 26 follows v. 25 and shows that “forsaking the assembly” isn’t about an occasional absence from church.  It refers to a habitual and deliberate turning away from the church.  However, this is more than just about church “attendance.”  The warnings in Hebrews are connected and cumulative.  The first warning deals with “drifting” with regard to the Word of God.  Hebrews warns against a casual and complacent attitude toward the truths of Scripture, something which even “churches” are capable of, and guilty of.  Too many are concerned more with personalities or programs than they are with the proclamation of the truths of God Word.  The danger of such “drifting” is that it leads to damnation, as we see here.  We’re not talking about the loss of salvation.  The person or church which develops a “take-it-or-leave-it ” attitude with reference to the teachings of God’s Word gives evidence that they were never His to begin with.