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.

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