HEBREWS STUDY PART 11: CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOR

THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOR: IN RELATION TO GOD (13:10-21)

SEPARATION

Hebrews 13:10-14 are among the most difficult in the book of Hebrews. They are subject to many interpretations and applications, and we therefore cannot be dogmatic in the views presented.

“We have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.” (13:10-12)

This hardly can describe Christian worship. There is also no eating or sacrificing of animals at the heavenly altar. Others believe the altar is a figure of Christ, whose body we are to eat and whose blood we are to drink (John 6:53-58). But still the questions remain about who is not allowed to eat and about the sacrificial animals.

We most probably refers to the writer’s fellow Jews. The priests serve at this altar in the Tabernacle, or the Temple. On the Day of Atonement, they are not allowed to eat the sin offering. The bodies of the animals used for this sacrifice are taken outside the camp and burned.

In this view, an analogy is given for Christians. As the priest of old could not have a part in the sins of the people, so the believer should be outside the camp of the world, no longer a part of its system, standards, and practices. It is simply a picture of Christians, following their Lord, separating themselves from the things of sin. As our Lord was crucified outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem, so we are to be spiritually outside the walls of sinning people.

“Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.” (13:13)

As Christians, we must be willing to go out from the system, to bear the reproach and the shame that both the sin offering and Christ Himself bore, and to be rejected by men.

God sends us into the physical world, the world where people live. What we are to be separate from is the world system, the way the world’s people live (cf. 1 John 2:15-17). Paul had a great deal to say about separation. “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Cor. 6:14-15).

After the incident with the golden calf in the wilderness, and before the Tabernacle was built, Moses set a tent outside the camp, “a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And it came about, that everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp” (Ex. 33:7). Whenever Moses entered the tent, the “pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the LORD would speak with Moses” (v. 9). Those who wanted to approach God had to go outside the camp, because Israel for the most part, siding with the world system, had rejected God.

Whether the analogy is of the Old Testament sacrifice being taken outside the camp, of Christ’s being crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem, or of the tent of meeting being outside the camp, the basic point seems to be that of separation.

For the Jews to whom Hebrews was written, separation from the world system meant separation from Judaism.

SACRIFICE

“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (13:15-16)

Sacrifice was extremely important to the Jew. Christ offered the one and only sacrifice for sin. He demands the sacrifice of our praise and of our doing good (works) in His name. He demands sacrifice not in the form of a ritual or ceremony, but in word and in deed—in our praise of Him and in our service to others. He wants only the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. “I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High” (Ps. 7:17). The Christian’s sacrifice of praise is to be offered continually.

Praise of God in word and deed are inseparable. Lip service must be accompanied by life service. “Little

children,” John says, “let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). John warns us that “the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). In other words, if our praise of God in word is not accompanied by doing good and sharing, it is not acceptable to Him. Worship involves action that honours God.

SUBMISSION

“Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” (13:17)

The most obvious submission seen in this text is that given to church leaders. Someday God will rule all the earth through His Son, the King of kings, but in the meanwhile, He rules His church through godly men. Submission to these men, therefore, is submission to God. “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thess. 5:12-13). The priority of every pastor, every elder, every church leader, is to care for the spiritual welfare of the congregation, for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. It is a sobering responsibility to be a leader in Christ’s church. To cause our leaders grief is harmful to ourselves as well as to them and to the church as a whole. It is unprofitable for you.

But God mediates his earthly rule, secular and spiritual, through various men. Even pagan rulers who have no use for God are nevertheless used by Him. “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Rom. 13:1).

SUPPLICATION

“Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. And I urge you all the more to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.” (13:18-19)

To pray for our leaders in the church is to serve and to please God. Prayer makes things possible; it moves the hand of God. Church leaders are made of the same stuff as those they serve. They have sins, weaknesses, limitations, blind spots, and needs of all sorts, just as everyone else.

Paul did not hesitate to ask for prayer. “Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19). How much more do God’s ordinary ministers need the prayer of their people.

The writer asks for prayer because we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. God is sovereign, but prayer makes things possible that otherwise would not be possible.

THE POWER OF GOD

“Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (13:20-21)

These verses are really a benediction and could stand without comment. We not only need to know God’s will; we need to have His power. We need the God of peace to equip us in every good thing to do His will. Christian growth and obedience are by God’s power, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ.

The greatest display of divine power in the history of the universe was at the resurrection of Jesus Christ, when God brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant.

All we have to do is open the channel of our wills and let God’s power work through us. “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness” (2 Cor. 9:10). We can work out our salvation because God is at work in us “both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). Because Christ does the work, He deserves the credit and praise, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOR: IN RELATION TO OTHERS (13:1-3)

“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.” (13:1-3)

Paul wrote: “In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:7-8). Hebrews 13 gives some of the essential practical ethics of Christian living that help portray the true gospel to the world, that encourage men to trust in Christ, and that bring glory to God.

Unfortunately, throughout the history of the church, the mean, prejudiced, and immoral lives of professed Christians have given the world an excuse not to be attracted to the claims of Christ. We who are true Christians have a serious responsibility to live spotlessly to the glory of God, so that unbelievers never have a just reason for criticizing the way we live, because how we live is a reflection on our Lord. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Jesus, of course, had in mind true good works, not hypocritical pretence. Good works that are self-conscious and hypocritical are not hard to spot. They do not impress God or unbelievers.

Ethics has to do with standards of conduct (behavior) or moral judgment. There can be no ethics without doctrine. You cannot reasonably require a certain type of living or morality from a person without underlying, under-girding, and universal moral principles that determine those standards. Otherwise you have no ethics at all, only a moral free-for-all, which is exactly what many people are advocating and exemplifying today.

Love itself needs a standard. Without a standard, one person’s idea of love often will be different from—and frequently contradictory to—someone else’s. Every moral command in the New Testament presupposes faith in Christ. You cannot possibly live up to God’s standards without God.

SUSTAINED LOVE

LOVE FOR THE BRETHREN

The primary moral standard of Christianity is love, and the particular love exhorted here is love of fellow Christians. Brotherly love is the natural outflow of the Christian life. “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:22-23). One of the by-products of obeying God’s truth is increased love for fellow believers.

Since we were given brotherly love when we were given spiritual life, we should exercise this love. Our primary concern should not be to look for blessings or to ask for blessings but to use our blessings (cf. Eph.l:3). Paul appeals to brothers in Christ to be diligent “to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more” (1 Thess. 4:9-10).

The basic principle of brotherly love is simple and is explained by Paul. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:10). Put in its most basic form, brotherly love is caring for fellow Christians more than we care for ourselves.

Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). In effect, God has given the world a right to evaluate us on the basis of our love for each other.

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14). Loving fellow Christians also reveals our true identity and provides a sure proof of salvation is found in our own hearts. We have no better evidence that we are a child of God—because we love His other children, our brothers and sisters in Christ. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matt. 25:40).

It is also characterized by practical commitment. “Whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). John continuous, continues, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We shall know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him” (vv. 18-19).

LOVE FOR STRANGERS

Our first responsibility is to our brothers in Christ, but our responsibility does not end there. “While we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10). “All men” includes even our enemies. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:43-44).

A stranger, by definition, is someone we do not know personally. Consequently, it is easy to be deceived when helping a stranger. If we help in good faith, God will honour our effort. Love is often taken advantage of, but this is a cost that it does not count.

In the ancient world hospitality often included putting a guest up overnight or longer. Christians are certainly to be no less hospitable. For by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

SYMPATHY

Sympathy is closely related to sustained love. It is easier to help others when we ourselves have needed help. It is easier to appreciate hunger when we have been hungry, loneliness when we have been lonely, and persecution when we have been persecuted. The point is that we should do our best to identify with those in need, to try to put ourselves in their places. We know that if we were starving, we would want someone to feed us, and that if we were imprisoned, we would want to be visited.

Hebrews 13:3 also warns against spiritualizing the Christian life. Our true home is heaven, but we are still in the body. We still get hungry, we still get lonely, and we still hurt, physically and psychologically. Our own troubles should make us more sensitive, hospitable, and loving, not less.

CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOR: IN RELATION TO OURSELVES (13:4-9)

“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?” Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were thus occupied were not benefited.” (13:4-9)

SEXUAL PURITY

MARRIAGE IS TO BE HONOURED

Paul warns that in the last days apostate teachers will “forbid marriage” (1 Tim. 4:3). But God holds marriage not only to be permissible, but honourable, and we are to have the same high regard for it. The Holy Spirit honoured marriage by using it to picture the church in the New Testament.

Marriage is, amongst other things, provided as a means of preventing sexual sin. “Because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2)

Marriage can be held in honor in many ways. One is by the husband’s being the head. God is glorified in a family where the husband rules. “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman” (1 Cor. 11:3). “The husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church” (Eph. 5:23). “You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7).

God is serious about sexual purity. Part of our moral responsibility to ourselves is to be sexually pure. The world today is obsessed with sex as never before. Sexual activity apart from marriage is considered acceptable and normal by more and more people. Some of the more obvious results of such views are the heartbreaking increases in extramarital pregnancies, forcible rapes, illegitimate births,  abortions and in venereal diseases of all sorts. Judgment already exists in the broken homes, the venereal disease, the psychological and physical breakdowns, and the murder and other violence that is generated when passion is uncontrolled. It is not possible to live and act against the moral grain of the universe established by God and not suffer terrible consequences.

When Christians are immoral, the immediate consequences may even be worse, because the testimony of the gospel is polluted. “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Eph. 5:3).

SATISFACTION WITH WHAT WE HAVE

“Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?” (13:5-6)

You do not have to acquire a lot of things to be covetous. In fact, you do not have to acquire anything at all. Covetousness is an attitude; it is wanting to acquire things, longing for them, setting our thoughts and attention on them—whether we ever possess them or not. Covetousness and greed follow a principle of increasing desire and decreasing satisfaction, a form of the law of diminishing returns. “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity” (Eccles. 5:10). The more you get the more you want. When we focus on material things, our having will never catch up with our wanting. It is one of God’s unbreakable laws.

A Christian should be free from the love of material things. Love of money is sin against God, a form of distrust. For He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” Among other things, loving money is trusting in uncertain riches rather than the living God (1 Tim. 6:17), looking for security in material things instead of in our heavenly Father. “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed,” Jesus warned, “for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Greed has kept many unbelievers out of the kingdom, and it has caused many believers to lose the joy of the kingdom, or worse.

Be content with what you have. We confidently say, “The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?” Discontentment is one of man’s greatest sins. Contentment is one of God’s greatest blessings. If we really believe that God is good, we know He will take care of us, His children. “Your Father knows that you need these things” (Luke 12:30). We know with Paul that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). It is the worldly, including the wealthy worldly, who are poor, and it is believers, including poor ones, who are rich. Our treasure is in our homeland, in heaven, and we should set our minds “on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2).

STEADFASTNESS IN THE FAITH

“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were thus occupied were not benefited.” (13:7-9)

The primary appeal of this passage is for Jews who had heard and professed the gospel not to return to legalism. Just as those who led {us} who spoke the word of God, and just as Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, so we should be in our doctrine and practices. We are not to be carried away by varied and strange teachings.

One of the saddest things in the world is for a Christian to get drawn into false doctrine and be rendered ineffective, to lose his joy, reward, and testimony.

Jews were used to having religious regulations for everything, and it was hard for them to adjust to freedom in Christ. It was difficult for them to accept the truth Paul expresses in 1 Corinthians 8:8, that “food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.” All their lives they had been taught and had believed that what you ate and did not eat was extremely important to God. Even how it was prepared and eaten was important. Now they are told that those who were thus occupied were not benefited. Spirituality comes not by foods. As Christians, our hearts are only strengthened by grace.

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.” (1 Tim. 4:1-5)

(MAIN SOURCE: MACARTHUR NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY – JOHN MACARTHUR)

HEBREWS STUDY PART 10: MORE ON FAITH

FAITH THAT DEFEATS DEATH (11:20-22)

“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come. By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.” (11:20-22)

Matthew Henry said, “Though the grace of faith is of universal use throughout the Christian’s life, yet it is especially so when we come to die. Faith has its great work to do at the very last, to help believers to finish well, to die to the Lord so as to honor Him, by patience, hope and joy so as to leave a witness behind them of the truth of God’s Word and the excellency of His ways.”

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones” (Ps. 116:15). The three patriarchs mentioned in Hebrews 11:20-22 illustrate the power of faith in facing death. What makes the dying faith of these three men so significant is that, like Abraham, they died without seeing the fulfilment of God’s promises. They passed them on to their children by faith. They had not seen the land possessed, the nation established, or the world blessed, but they saw the promises, and that was enough. They knew by faith that God would fulfil the promises because they knew He was a covenant-keeping God and a God of truth.

A Christian who fears death has a serious weakness in his faith, for to die in Christ is simply to be ushered into the Lord’s presence. “For to me, to live is Christ,” Paul says, “and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). For those who believe, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54).

MOSES: THE DECISIONS OF FAITH (11:23-29)

Life is made up of decisions, of which many are difficult. You can note the maturity of a Christian by the decisions he makes. Right choices are made on the basis of right faith. Everything in a believer’s life is an opportunity to glorify God. The first man to choose was Adam. He made the wrong choice and started the tragic chain of wrong choices that has plagued his descendants ever since.

Speaking to Israel in the wilderness, God said, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants” (Deut. 30:19). Moses lived most of his life before the covenant of Mt. Sinai, with its system of commandments and rituals. But both before and after Sinai he lived by faith, not by works. Because Moses received the covenant from God at Sinai, the Jews always associated him with God’s law.

The life of Moses illustrates both positive and negative decisions of faith, the things it accepts and the things it rejects.

“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” (11:23)

Pharaoh gave an edict that all male babies were to be drowned in the Nile. His parents first hid him for three months, and then put him in a waterproofed basket and placed him in the Nile near the place where Pharaoh’s daughter bathed. He was found by the princess and taken to be raised as her own child. Moses’ sister, Miriam, was watching and persuaded the princess to get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the infant. Miriam, of course, got her mother, who was then able to raise her own son almost as if he had been at home.

His parents were not afraid of the king’s edict. “Moses . . . was lovely in the sight of God” (Acts 7:20). Not only Moses’ parents, but also God Himself, had a special affection for this child. They were somehow aware of God’s special concern, for by faith in God they hid him and opposed Pharaoh’s order. It was for God’s sake, as well as for Moses’ and their own sakes, that the baby was protected.

Moses’ parents were willing to risk their own lives to follow God’s way. Their decision was clear: save the child, whatever the consequences. It took considerable faith to put Moses in the basket and to trust Pharaoh’s daughter. Yet they willingly let him go, entrusting him to God. He needs our obedience, not our help, not our counsel. He makes the plans; we walk in them by faith.

“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” (11:24)

For forty years Moses had been a prince of Egypt. He could enjoy everything Egypt had to offer. But his training in Egypt never blunted his knowledge of the hope of Israel and of the promises of God. By faith Moses . . . refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.

We learn from Stephen that Moses knew he had a mission to perform for God and for his people. “And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him; but they did not understand” (Acts 7:25). He renounced the world’s power, honor, and prestige for the sake of God, and knew that for so doing he would gain immeasurably more than he would lose, for he was looking to the reward (v. 26). Moses gladly joined with God’s chosen people, though they were slaves, rather than take advantage of the prestige and privileges of Egypt and be unfaithful to God.

“Choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” (11:25)

Moses knew God was calling him to give his life for his people. He had a choice. He could have obeyed or disobeyed. He made a conscious choice to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.

“Considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.” (11:26)

Moses had all the things the world holds dear. Considering involves careful thought, not quick decision. Moses thought through his decision, weighing the pros and cons. He weighed what Egypt had to offer against what God offered.

In the eyes of the world no reproach (being ridiculed and persecuted) would be worth sacrificing riches for. Yet Moses believed that the worst he could endure for Christ would be more valuable than the best of the world. It is interesting that the writer of Hebrews speaks of Moses’ considering the reproach of Christ, since he lived nearly 1500 years before Christ. Moses suffered reproach for the sake of Jesus Christ, the true Messiah, because he identified with Messiah’s people, Israel, and purpose long before Christ came to earth. Moses would have agreed with what Peter wrote: “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet. 4:14). Moses rejected the treasures of Egypt and took his stand with God’s Anointed.

God’s reward is always greater than the world’s. Moses surely saw the reward of a blessed life, but the emphasis is best seen as being on the eternal reward. That is the attitude every Christian should have about Christ. We should be willing to forsake and hazard all we have for the sake of God’s will, knowing with Moses and with Paul that our “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17; cf. Rom. 8:18).

“By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.” (11:27)

The first time he left Egypt, Moses was fleeing from the pharaoh, who wanted to kill him for slaying the Egyptian slavemaster (Ex. 2:15). The second time he left Egypt, another pharaoh wanted to keep Moses from taking the children of Israel with him. Moses was doubtlessly tempted to fear the wrath of the king when he left Egypt, but he did not. He knew he had an invisible but powerful means of support, as seeing Him who is unseen. He continued to say what God wanted him to say and do what God wanted him to do. He knew that, no matter what happened, whatever he had to face, he would be held up and strengthened and rewarded. He chose to focus his sights on God rather than on a monarch in Egypt.

Fear is a great pressure, and all of us are tempted at times to bend when standing for the Lord requires us to say or do something that is unpopular or dangerous. But true faith does not fold under the world’s pressure. When we are afraid of the world, when we are afraid of what people will say or do, we are exposing ourselves to God’s displeasure and discipline for lack of faith.

“By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn might not touch them.” (11:28)

True faith accepts the Lord’s provision as well as His plan. The tenth and last plague that God sent on the Egyptians was the death of all firstborn (Ex. 11:5). To protect the Israelites from this plague the Passover was instituted, in which a lamb’s blood was sprinkled on the doorposts and lintels of their houses (12:7). Obviously, the blood itself had no power but sprinkling it as God had commanded was an act of faith and obedience and the blood was symbolic of Christ’s sacrifice by which He conquered death for all who believe in Him. The people of Israel, including Moses, did not understand the full significance of the ceremony, but they knew it was part of God’s plan. Faith always accepts God’s provision, no matter how strange and pointless it may seem to human understanding.

“By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.” (11:29)

Faith also accepts God’s promise. When Moses and his people got to the Red Sea, Pharaoh and his army were not far behind. From all they could see they were trapped; there was no escape. At first the people lost heart. Moses then told them, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; . . . The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent” (Ex. 14: 13-14). For a while at least they trusted God, and by faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land. They believed Moses’ promise from God and started walking across the seabed as soon as the waters were parted.

The people had no guarantee except God’s word that He would not change His mind or forget them. For the faithful, God’s word is always enough. The test of faith is trusting God when all we have are His promises. When the waters are piled high all around us and problems and dangers are about to overwhelm us, this is when faith is tested, and when the Lord takes special pleasure in showing us His faithfulness, His love, and His power. When we have nothing but His promise to rely on, His help is the nearest and His presence the dearest to those who believe. When we truly believe God, we will know that in everything He has our best interest at heart, and we will always decide for Him.

THE COURAGE OF FAITH (11:30-40)

Faith is unconditional confidence in what God says, strictly on the basis that He has said it. The faith illustrated in Hebrews 11 is that which takes the bare word of God and acts on it, risking all. Looking for signs and wonders and explanations that we can understand or glory in is not faith. “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29).

For a Jew to become a Christian in the first century was nearly always costly. It often cost him his friends, family, synagogue privileges, job, social status, and community respect. Sadly, some were trying to take the voyage of the New Covenant while keeping their boats securely tied to the dock of the Old. Such reluctant Jews are being shown in this chapter that God’s faithful followers in the Old Testament were not like them. Faith is proved when it faces disaster, trial, persecution, and ridicule—and still stands unwavering. Faith is the source of courage. Certainly, Moses demonstrated this courage in facing Pharaoh.

Faith it conquers in struggle, continues in suffering, and counts on salvation. The only effective weapon we have in struggle is faith.

JOSHUA AND THE ISRAELITES AT JERICHO

“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been encircled for seven days.” (11:30)

Forty years had passed since Israel had crossed the Red Sea by faith (v. 29).  Nothing in that forty years was worth mentioning in a chapter on faith. Also, when they arrived, the real obstacle was not Canaan but unbelief. But as Israel came to Jericho, she showed faith again.

Jericho was the first obstacle in Canaan. The walls of Jericho were massive structures, designed to protect it from the strongest enemy attack, and its soldiers were well-trained and well-armed. All the Israelites had to do was march around the city once a day for six days, with seven priests in front carrying rams’ horns before the ark. The seventh day they were to march around seven times, with the priests blowing their horns. When the priests finally made one loud blast, all the people were to shout, and then “the wall of the city will fall down flat” (Josh. 6:3-5). The people obeyed in faith, and the walls fell as predicted. Psychologically they demanded a great amount of courage. The Israelites believed Joshua’s report from the Lord, and they immediately began to prepare for the marching (Joshua 6:8).

They could however take absolutely no credit for themselves. All God wanted from them was faith, and this they gave, for by faith the walls of Jericho fell down. In the fall of Jericho we see the faith that risks. The people of Israel were willing to do everything and to risk everything, because they believed God. If we trust the Lord and demonstrate our trust by courageously continuing to do what the Lord has called us to do, in God’s time the obstacle will fall.

RAHAB

“By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.” (11:31)

Rahab was an unlikely candidate for the faithfuls’ hall of fame. For one thing, she was a prostitute. For another, she was a Gentile, and a Canaanite at that. She was, in fact, an Amorite, a race that God had long before marked for destruction (Gen, 15:16). Yet that is how God’s grace works. His mercy is open to all who will receive it, and His grace has always been wider than Israel, even in Old Testament times.

She found herself in the midst of her fellow inhabitants of Jericho, who were disobedient and unbelieving. They had wanted to kill the Israelite spies, but Rahab had welcomed the spies in peace. She welcomed God’s people. She believed, and confessed, “The LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Josh. 2:11).

She staked her life on the fact that God had said He would save and protect His people, Israel, and she wanted to be on His side. She had faith’s courage. For her faith, she and her family were spared. She became the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth, the great-great-grandmother of David, and she thereby came to be an ancestor of Jesus (Matt. 1:5).

OTHERS

“And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” (11:32-34)

They were all rulers of one kind or another but none of the men is praised for his office. All are praised for what they accomplished by faith.

Gideon defeated the Midianites and the Amalekites. With 300 men, while they were “as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore” (Judg. 7:12). Only a fool would have attempted such a courageous approach to battle apart from God’s direction and power.

Barak is unknown in Scripture outside the brief account in Judges 4-5 and the mention of his name in Hebrews 12:32. According to the Lord’s instruction, Deborah asked Barak to assemble an Israelite force of only 10,000 men, to fight against the Canaanites who were powerfully armed. Barak was told in advance that the glory of victory would not be his, but God’s. Not only did the Lord fight the battle for His people, but he allowed a woman to kill Sisera, the great commander of king Jabin, so that Barak would have even less cause for claiming credit for himself (Judg. 4:9). Barak was not concerned about Sisera’s power, because he had God’s power. By such courageous faith he conquered kingdoms.

Samson is not most remembered for his faith, but for his physical strength and personal gullibility. He never doubted that God was the source of his power, of which his hair was only a symbol. Samson was a judge of Israel and was given the special task of opposing the Philistines, who then ruled over Israel. It was the Spirit that strengthened him in his amazing one-man battles (Judg. 13:25; 14:19; 15:14; 16:28).  He faced the Philistines not in the courage of physical prowess but in the courage of faith. We are inclined to judge Samson by his weaknesses. But God commends him for his faith.

Jephthah preceded Samson as judge of Israel, and his responsibility was to subdue the Ammonites, one of Israel’s many enemies. Despite his foolish vow (Judg. 11:30-31), Jephthah’s trust was in the Lord, and his power was from the Lord (vv. 29, 32). Even people of faith make mistakes, and God still honoured Jephthah for his faith.

David’s trust in the Lord began when he was a boy, tending sheep, killing lions and bears, and taking on Goliath with a slingshot. He faced Goliath in utter confidence that the Lord would give him power to defeat this giant. God called him “a man after My heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22). He pleased God because of the courage of his faith to trust Him and do His will.

Samuel‘s great foes were idolatry and immorality. He had to stand up in the middle of a polluted society and fearlessly speak God’s truth. His severest opponents frequently were his own people. It often takes more courage to stand up against our friends than against our enemies. He continued faithful to God throughout his life. In the courage of faith, he ruled and prophesied.

CONTINUING IN SUFFERING

“Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.” (11:35-38)

Elijah brought back to life the child of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-23), and his successor, Elisha, did the same for a Shunammite woman’s son (2 Kings 4:18-37). These mothers and these prophets believed God for resurrection, and He performed it.

Many of the afflictions mentioned in Hebrews 11:35-38 were however long-term, or even lifetime. God gave power through faith to see some of His people through these problems, rather than letting them to escape these problems. He will give them victory, too, but it may only be spiritual—the only kind of victory He guarantees. Where there is need for more courage there is need for more faith.

When it is suffered because of God’s Word and standing for Him, God’s people will take torture, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection. In faith, they are willing to accept the worst the world has to offer, which is death, because of trust in the best God has to offer, namely resurrection.

The many kinds of suffering mentioned in these verses give a summary of the many and varied kinds of affliction God’s people face and are often called to endure for Him. They courageously and uncompromisingly suffered for the Lord because of their faith. Physical deliverance or not, they would not forsake their trust in God.

The world is not worthy of having such people in its midst, just as these people did not deserve the sufferings they received. For its inflicting the suffering, the world will be judged and punished; for their enduring the suffering the faithful saints will be resurrected and rewarded. They knew with Paul that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18), and they looked forward with Peter to “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1 Pet. 1:4).

God does not promise His saints deliverance from all suffering. To the contrary, Jesus told us to take up our crosses and to follow Him (Mark 8:34), and that “if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Both Paul (Phil. 3:10) and Peter (1 Pet. 4:13) advise us to rejoice in our sufferings for Christ’s sake.

COUNTING ON SALVATION

“And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” (11:39-40)

True faith has the courage to count on salvation and to live in hope. They had abiding confidence that one day God would do the necessary thing to redeem them and reward them. What happened to them before that time was not consequential. They did not receive what was promised but they had gained approval through their faith. Their faith was not in some immediate fulfilment, but in the ultimate fulfilment of the promises.

The ultimate promise was of a redeemer, the Messiah, and of His covenant that would bring righteousness before God. “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow” (1 Pet. 1:10-11). All these, from Enoch through the prophets, had that courageous faith which counts, without reservation, on final salvation.

Many of them never received the land but they knew that God had provided something better for us, that is for those under the New Covenant, which is why apart from us they should not be made perfect. Until Jesus’ atoning work on the cross was accomplished, no salvation was complete, no matter how great the faith a believer may have had. Their salvation was based on what Christ would do; ours is based on what Christ has done. Their faith looked forward to promise; ours looks back to historical fact. “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29).

(MAIN SOURCE: MACARTHUR NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY – JOHN MACARTHUR)

HEBREWS STUDY PART 9: WHAT IS FAITH?

THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

WHAT FAITH IS (11:1-3)

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” (11:1-3)

This chapter deals with the primacy and the excellency of faith, and fits perfectly into the flow of the epistle, that the new is better than the old.

First-century Jews saw everything as a matter of works. By the time of Christ, Judaism was no longer the supernatural system God had originally given. It had been twisted into a works system, and in many ways, it became a religious cult built on ethics. As this chapter makes clear, from the time of Adam on, God has honoured faith, not works. The way back to God, as far as man’s part is concerned, is by faith—it has always been by faith and only by faith.

In Old Testament times, believers had to rest on the promises of God regarding the coming Messiah and the future, and they believed it, as incomplete and vague as many of those promises were. The promises were so real to them, they lived by them. Faith gave them present assurance and substance to what was yet future.

True faith is an absolute certainty, often of things that the world considers unreal and impossible. If we follow a God whose audible voice we have never heard and believe in a Christ whose face we have never seen, we are specially blessed (John 20:29). We live in the certainty that whatever discomfort or pain we may have to endure for Christ’s sake on earth, will more than be compensated for by an eternity of unending bliss, of pleasure we cannot now imagine.

Man’s natural response is to trust his physical senses, to put his faith in the things he can see, hear, taste, and feel. But senses may lie, while God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

Conviction of things not seen implies a response, an outward manifestation of the inward assurance. The natural man cannot comprehend this kind of spiritual faith. Because he has no spiritual senses, he does not believe in God or the realities of God’s realm. Yet there is a sense in which all men live by faith as the capacity for faith is created in us. As examples, we trust the surgeon to operate on us and the restaurant to prepare our food. But spiritual faith is radically different from natural faith in one important way. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Just as natural trust comes by natural birth, so spiritual trust comes from God.

God did not just create the world, by His word and not out of visible things, but the worlds, which designates the physical universe itself and also its operation, its administration. The understanding of creation comes entirely by faith and for this reason, many unbelievers and most philosophy and science believe in things such as the theory of evolution. “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men” (Col. 2:8). “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him. For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God” (1 Cor. 2:9-10).

ABEL: WORSHIPING IN FAITH (11:4)

“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous. God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.” (11:4)

The primary meaning of Hebrews 11:4 has to do with Abel’s speaking to later generations of believers and potential believers. He still speaks. Dead men are not silent, but still speak to those who will listen. Abel lived in a far distant age, with far less light from God than we have, and yet, his faith speaks to us. He is the first in a long line of faithful persons who can teach us about the life of faith. The Jews had to be shown that, from the very beginning, faith has been the only thing that God will accept to save fallen man.

Because he believed, he offered a better sacrifice. Because he offered a better sacrifice, he obtained righteousness. Because he obtained righteousness, he is for all the ages a living voice saying, “Righteousness is by faith.”

Cain and Abel would know nothing about the need for worship or sacrifice, much less the way, had they not been told by God—perhaps through their parents. It is especially significant that the first recorded act of worship was sacrifice, a sin offering. The heart of the New Covenant is Jesus’ perfect, once-for-all sacrifice on the cross.

Here is where the life of faith begins, with a sacrifice for sin. It begins with believing God that we are sinners, that we are worthy of death, that we need His forgiveness, and that we accept His revealed plan for our deliverance.

Abel was of God; Cain was of Satan (1 John 3:12). Cain believed in God, else he would not have brought Him a sacrifice. But he did not believe God the way he should and therefore actually became “the father of all false religion.” He did not mind worshiping God, as long as it was on his own terms, in his own way. And God rejected his sacrifice and rejected him. Proverbs 14:12 says: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” “Woe to them!” Jude says, “For they have gone the way of Cain” (v. 11). Paul says of such people that, “they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:2-3).

In Abel’s sacrifice, the way of the cross was first prefigured. The first sacrifice was Abel’s lamb—one lamb for one person. Later came the Passover—with one lamb for one family. Then came the Day of Atonement—with one lamb for one nation. Finally came Good Friday—one Lamb for the whole world.

The only thing that obtained righteousness for Abel was that, in faith, He did what God told him to do. Abel was sinful, just as Cain was, but he had the kind of faith that allows God to move in on our behalf and make us righteous. Obedience does not bring faith, but faith will always bring obedience and the desire to live righteously.

We cannot claim to have faith in God and then continually disregard His Word. James wrote: “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? … Faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:14, 17). James however, does not teach salvation by works. The Christian, in fact, is “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Abel was counted righteous, not because he was righteous, but because he trusted God, and no mentioning was even made that he receive the Holy Spirit, as do believers today.

ENOCH: WALKING IN FAITH (11:5-6)

“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. And 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 seek Him. (11:5-6)

The second hero of faith is Enoch. Whereas Abel exemplifies worshiping by faith—which must always come first—Enoch exemplifies walking by faith. Revelation in Scripture is progressive. Abel received some revelation, and Enoch received more.

God intended works to be a result of salvation, not a way of salvation. Also, we cannot know God by sight. “No man has seen God at any time,” Jesus said (John 1:18). Without faith it is impossible to please Him. The first step of faith is simply to believe that He is. The witness of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers gives infinitely proof of God’s existence.

But it is not enough simply to believe that God exists. We must recognize God as a personal, loving, gracious God to those who seek Him. For three hundred years Enoch had fellowship with the true God, a God whom he knew to be just, merciful, forgiving, caring, and very personal.

We must also believe that He rewards those who seek Him. The reward that God gives for faith is salvation. “Whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). For faith we receive forgiveness, a new heart, eternal life, joy, peace, love, heaven—everything! When we trust in Jesus Christ, we become mutual heirs with Him.

Believing that God exists is the first step toward faith. Believing that he rewards those who trust in Him is the first step of faith. Trusting fully in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is only the beginning of the faithful life in God. To continue pleasing God, we must fellowship with Him, commune with, “walk” with Him—just as Enoch did. Walking with God is pleasing God. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).

Walking with God is a walk in faith and a walk by faith. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith” (Col. 2:6-7). Because of his faith, Enoch was reconciled with God; and because he was reconciled with God, he could walk with God. Because Enoch walked with God, he must have had a nature corresponding to God’s. Walking with God implies moral fitness as well as a judicial dealing with sin. We could not have a new nature unless God took away sin. Because a person walks with God means that his sin has been forgiven and that he has been justified, counted righteous by God. Only when sin has been dealt with can we move into God’s presence and begin walking with Him. Walking with God implies a surrendered will.

The New Testament refers to this sort of living as walking in the Spirit. We are to live continually in the atmosphere of the Spirit’s presence, power, direction, and teaching. The fruit of this walk in the Spirit are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). If we want to know how to walk, we need simply to look at Jesus. He was continually about His Father’s business, and only His Father’s business. He constantly walked with God.

Jude’s report of Enoch’s preaching contradicts any notion that Enoch lived in an easy time for believing. He was surrounded by false teachers and false teaching.

He pleased God so much that God just reached down and lifted him up to heaven. God just took him up without him even experiencing death.

When we get to heaven, we will walk with Him forever. Christ speaks of our fellowship with Him in heaven as a walk: “They will walk with Me in white; for they are worthy” (Rev. 3:4). Enoch is a beautiful picture of believers who will be taken up directly to heaven when our Lord returns for His bride, the church. Just as Enoch was translated to heaven without seeing death, so also will be those of God’s people who are alive at the rapture. “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).

NOAH: OBEYING IN FAITH (11:7)

“By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” (11:7)

If a person trusts in God and is saved, Satan then tries to convince him of one of two extremes—that he must do good works to keep his salvation (legalism) or that, now that he is saved by faith, he can forget about good works (license).

But “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). True faith always has actions to support its claim. If you really believe in God, there will be evidence of it in the way you live, in the things you say, and in the things you do. For all the saints listed in Hebrews 11, their genuine faith was made known in something they did. Faith cannot be seen except in the things that it does. Noah, perhaps more than any other person in history, illustrates the work of faith through obedience.

“Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). Noah’s faith was extremely impressive because of his absolute trust in God and because of his unhesitating and persistent obedience for 120 years.

When God told Noah that He was getting ready to destroy the world because of its wickedness and instructed him to build an ark (Gen. 6:13-14), Noah dropped everything and started building. Noah, who had but a fraction of the divine light that we have, did not argue, quibble, make excuses, complain, or procrastinate.

Noah was warned by God about things not yet seen. By faith Noah . . . prepared an ark. He had nothing to go on but God’s word, which for him was more than sufficient.

It is just as important for us “to build the ark” He gives us as it was for Noah to build the one God assigned him. And, like Noah’s, when we build it in faith, according to God’s plan and by His power, it will accomplish what God wants it to accomplish. Noah believed God’s word about the coming judgment, and about the promise to save him and his family. He did not pick and choose what to believe and what to obey.

He was such a man of God that his very life was a rebuke to the wicked people that surrounded him.  By faith Noah. . . condemned the world. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen.6:5). Against that wicked, cruel, and dark world, Noah’s life and testimony shined in glistening condemnation. He basically rebukes the world just by his living.

Noah’s obedience included to warn the rest of the world of God’s message of coming judgment. He did this throughout the 120 years that he used to build the ark. In 2 Peter 2:5, he is called “a preacher of righteousness.” At the same time God was preparing judgment He was also preparing a way of escape, but they would not take heed. The people had ample warning of judgment, and they also had ample knowledge of the truth.

Perhaps the saddest lesson from Noah’s day is that men have not changed in their attitude toward God since then and will not change until the Lord returns. “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:37-39).

In his day a remnant found grace, just as a remnant believes today. In Noah’s day or shortly before it, Enoch was translated, picturing the rapture of believers when the Lord returns, which could be in our day. We can be as sure as they should have been that judgment is coming, because God has promised it just as clearly and men deserve it just as much. Someone has said, “If God doesn’t destroy our world, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” The next judgment will be different in two ways, however. First, it will not be by flood (Gen. 9:15) but by fire (2 Pet. 3:10). Second, it will be the last. And again, the only security is refuge in God’s ark, Jesus Christ.

Noah was the first person in Scripture to be called righteous. All who believe in God are righteous, as Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us by faith (Rom. 3:22). God looks at believers through the lens of His Son, and He sees us as He sees the Son. Thousands of years before Jesus became incarnate, God looked at Noah and saw the Son, because Noah believed.

ABRAHAM: THE LIFE OF FAITH (11:8-19)

There are only two ways to live. One way, by far the most common, is to live by sight, to base everything on what you can see. This is the empirical way. The other way, far less common, is to live by faith, to base your life primarily and ultimately on what you cannot see.

The life of faith has some specific ingredients, which are pointed out in this text as reflected in the life of Abraham. The Jews needed to realize that Abraham was more than the father of their race; he also was the father of everyone who lives by faith in God. It was necessary to show these Jews, from the Old Testament itself, that Abraham was not righteous in himself through his works but was counted righteous by God because of his faith.

When Stephen was preaching to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, he began by showing how Abraham had obediently trusted God by leaving his homeland and believing God’s promises of blessing (Acts 7:2-5). In his powerful argument in Romans for justification by faith, Paul uses Abraham as the central illustration (Rom. 4). Abraham is the classic example of the life of faith.

The New Testament makes it clear that Abraham was the first true man of faith. Since his time, everyone who trusts in God, Jew or Gentile, is spiritually a child of Abraham. “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7; cf. v. 29).

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (11:8)

It was not Abraham’s plan to leave Ur and then Haran, and eventually settle in the land of Canaan. In fact, when he left Ur he had no idea where he was going. But when he was called, he immediately responded.

Abraham was a sinful heathen who grew up in an unbelieving and idolatrous society. He was raised in a home that was pagan (Josh.24:2). But when God spoke to him, he listened; when God promised, he trusted; when God commanded, he obeyed. Isaiah refers to Abraham as “the rock from which you were hewn” and “the quarry from which your were dug” (Isa. 51:1-2), reminding his fellow Jews that God sovereignly condescended to call Abraham out of paganism and idolatry in order to bless him and the world through him.

When any person comes to Jesus Christ, God demands of him a pilgrimage from the system of the world and his old pattern of living into a new kind of life, just as Abraham’s faith separated him from paganism and unbelief and started him toward a new land and a new kind of life. Salvation brings separation from the world. The Lord works in the heart the total willingness to leave behind everything that is not pleasing to Him. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2; cf. 2 Cor. 6:14; Gal. 1:4). Worldliness is not so much what we do as what we want to do. It is not determined so much by what our actions are as by where our heart is.

“By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (11:9-10)

Abraham was immediately willing to give up his homeland and everything he knew. But faith also has a time for waiting and for being patient. Dwelling in tents was not considered permanent residences. Near as it was, the land was still only a promise. He lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land and he had to be patient. It was promised but never possessed and he never owned more than a small plot in which to bury Sarah (Gen. 23:9-20). He never saw God’s promise fulfilled but he patiently waited.

The secret of Abraham’s patience was his hope in the ultimate fulfilment of the promise of God. His ultimate Promised Land was heaven, just as ours is. He was patient because his eyes were on the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. As important as the earthly land was to him and to God’s promise, he looked up toward the heavenly land, which he knew he would inherit without fail. Only the heavenly minded will have the patience to continue faithful in God’s work when it becomes hard, unappreciated, and seemingly unending. That is why Paul tells us to set our minds “on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2).

“By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised; therefore, also, there was born of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.” (11:11-12)

Faith sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, touches the intangible, and accomplishes the impossible. Faith was active in the miracle of Isaac’s birth. From the human standpoint, it was impossible for Abraham and Sarah to have a child. Not only had Sarah always been barren (Gen. 16:1), but by the time she was 90 years of age she was far beyond the proper time of life for child-bearing. Yet at that age she conceived and gave birth to the promised son (Gen. 21:2).

The Genesis account gives no indication that Sarah ever showed much faith in God. Both Abraham and Sarah, on different occasions, had laughed at God’s promise of a son in their old age (Gen. 17:17; 18:12), but Sarah had even taken matters into her own hands by persuading Abraham to have a son by her maid, Hagar (16:1-4). She did not trust God’s promise and her impatience was costly as seen in the account of Ishmael.

If we study Hebrews 11:11 carefully, I believe we discover that the faith mentioned here does not apply to Sarah but rather for her. The faith was Abraham’s, not Sarah’s. Through Abraham’s faith God miraculously fulfilled His promise.

Abraham had children upon children, the whole of the people of Israel. Every Jew that ever has been and ever will be born is a result of Abraham’s faith.

“All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” (11:13-16)

Not Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, ever possessed the Promised Land. In fact it was almost 500 years after Jacob died that Israel first began to possess Canaan. All these died in faith, without receiving the promises. God had given them no word as to when or how the promises would be fulfilled. He only gave the promises, and that was enough.

They walked on it and pastured their flocks on it and raised their children on it, but they were not impatient to possess it. It was enough to possess it from a distance, because their primary concern was for a better country, that is a heavenly one. In the meantime they were quite happy to be strangers and exiles on the earth. It is people of such faith that God blesses. He is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them, called heaven.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type.” (11:17-19)

If Noah illustrates the duration of faith, Abraham shows the depth of faith. The proof of Abraham’s faith was his willingness to give back to God everything he had, including sacrificing the son of promise, Isaac. Abraham knew that the covenant, which could only be fulfilled through Isaac, was unconditional. He knew, therefore, that God would do whatever was necessary, including raising Isaac from the dead, to keep His covenant. He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead. Somehow, he knew that he would have his son back, even if it would have been through resurrection. As it turned out, because he did not actually die, Isaac became only a type of the resurrection.

(MAIN SOURCE: MACARTHUR NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY – JOHN MACARTHUR)

HEBREWS STUDY PART 6: NEGLECTING SALVATION

THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

THE MARK OF TRUE BELIEVERS

We can know that we are really part of God’s house if we are “holding fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” The one who falls away never belonged in the first place (cf. 1 John 2:19). “If you abide in My word,” Jesus said, “then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31). Apparently, there were many Jews who had fallen away when the book of Hebrews was written.

THE TRAGEDY OF NEGLECTING SALVATION (2:3)

This passage addresses those that are well aware of the good news of salvation provided in Jesus Christ but are not willing to commit their lives to Him. Therefore, they drift past the call of God into eternal damnation.

TEACHING DEMANDS A RESPONSE

Despite the rejection of His own people, their hardness of heart, and their history of persecuting God’s messengers, Jesus nevertheless ached for the salvation of the Jews. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37). On another occasion he told His Jewish listeners, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life” (John 5:39-40). He had a compassionate concern that His hearers respond.

WARNING TO THE INTELLECTUALLY CONVINCED

“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard.” (2:3)

This warning cannot be directed to true reborn Christians or to those who have never heard the gospel. It was therefore directed to the non-Christian Jews who were intellectually convinced of the gospel but who failed to receive it for themselves. They were not willing to confess Him as Lord and Savior. The message, of course, is not restricted to Jewish nonbelievers.

DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS (3:7-19)

“Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you hear His voice,” (3:7)

To hear the Holy Spirit and know the truth and not accept it brings worse judgment than never to have known it at all. To enforce the warning, the Spirit uses an Old Testament story very familiar to Jews. Hebrews 3:7-11 is a quotation of Psalm 95:7-11 that speaks about the time of Moses and describes Israel’s disobedience and rejection of God in the Exodus wanderings. The basic warning from the psalm (“Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts”) is used three times in Hebrews 3 (vv. 7-8, 13, 15) and once in chapter 4 (v. 7).

The word, “Today,” of course, indicates urgency. “For He says, ‘At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you’; behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’ ” (2 Cor. 6:2). Today signifies the present time of grace. Nobody knows how long that time of grace for them will be before they die.

THE ILLISTRATION OF ISRAEL

“Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness.” (3:8)

Israel had been in Egypt for more than 400 years, the last 200 years or so as slaves. They left under Moses’ leadership. After they arrived for the trial in the wilderness, God continued to bless them with miracles. After each blessing they were satisfied only for a brief time. They soon started again to complain and to doubt God. They never really believed. For some forty years they wandered around in circles in a barren, desolate, and oppressive land—because of their unbelief.

“Where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw My works for forty years.” (3:9)

The people of Israel kept testing God, and the day of trial lasted forty years. “They tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us, or not?’” (17:7) “Don’t be like these people,” pleads the writer of Hebrews. The one who tests God today does so for the same reason as did the Israelites in Moses day—to put Him off, because they love their sin, their own way, their own plans too much to give them up for God’s.

“Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, “They always go astray in their heart; and they did not know My ways”; as I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’” (3:10-11)

God was extremely angry with Israel’s sin. As the Israelites finally neared the Promised Land, God commanded them to send out twelve men to spy it out before they entered. The majority report was extremely negative and pessimistic. As punishment, God said, “Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs, which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it” (Num. 14:22-23).

If Israel had more than enough evidence to trust God in Moses’ day, how much more do we have today? We have the evidence that Jesus Christ the Son of God died on a cross, rose again the third day, and lives and saves men. The evidence is in, the evidence is secure. Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father, has manifested God. He has declared Him, He has displayed His love, He has displayed His grace, He has sent the Holy Spirit. We do not need a Moses. In addition to all the historical evidence, we have the third Person of the Trinity to reveal Christ.

Even the generation that entered the land never knew God’s rest in the true sense. In A.D. 70 their Temple was destroyed and they have since been scattered across the world. Only in our own day has God begun to gather them back to a homeland. Israel’s final rest will come only in the Kingdom that His Son will build when He returns again.

THE INVITATION: TAKE HEED

“Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God.” (3:12)

The readers of Hebrews should not follow Israel’s example. “Brethren” in this verse is not a reference to Christians but rather refers to racial brothers, unbelieving Jews, as the term does throughout the book of Acts.

No matter how close a person may be to accepting Jesus Christ as Savior, if he never comes to Him, he still has an evil, unbelieving heart. His punishment will be all the more severe because of his knowledge of the living God. If you continue to follow your evil, unbelieving heart rather than the gospel, you will forever depart from the living God, and forfeit salvation rest.

THE INSTRUCTION: EXHORT ONE ANOTHER DAILY

“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (3:13)

They are especially urged to help their unbelieving Jewish brethren by encouraging them not to harden their hearts but to accept Jesus as the Messiah, while the time for grace still exists.

Sin is deceitful and as the old nature constantly suggests that sin is not as bad and that trust in Christ is not as important as the Bible says.

CONTINUANCE IS PROOF OF SALVATION

“For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.” (3:14)

The greatest proof of salvation is continuance in the Christian life. “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).

THE ISSUE: UNBELIEF

“While it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.” For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” (3:15-19)

The appeal to turn to the Lord without delay is repeated again. The disobedience of unbelief forfeits blessing and brings judgment. Not to trust in Him is fatal.

DULLNESS IN HEARING (5:11-14)

We have come to a section of Hebrews of which there are numerous and often conflicting interpretations, even among evangelicals. The overall passage is 5:11—6:12 and deals with spiritual maturity. The first two parts (5:11-14 and 6:1-8) address unbelievers, whereas the third (6:9-12) is aimed at believers.

“Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.” (5:11)

“Him” refers to Melchizedek, who has first been mentioned vv. 6,10. The writer explains the order of Melchizedek in chapter 7.

The first warning (2:1-4) was about the Jews neglecting the gospel, and the second (3:7-19) was about hardening their hearts to it. The third warning concerns spiritual maturity and the danger of staying with the elemental truths and promises of the Old Covenant. All of these warnings were aimed at unbelieving Jews who knew a great deal about the gospel but who had not gone all the way to accepting it for themselves.

The maturity being called for is not that of a Christian’s growing in the faith, but of an unbeliever’s coming into the faith—into the full-grown, mature truths and blessings of the New Covenant. It refers to salvation, not Christian growth.

God’s revelation to man progresses from the Old to the New Testament. The Old Testament was His elementary, foundational teaching. Everything in the Old testament had purpose and benefit for the times for which it was given. But primarily, they were pictures of things to come, which the people were not then ready to understand. They were symbols and shadows of realities in Christ and the New Covenant (Col. 2:17). These Jews now had to move to the solid food of the New Testament.

DULLNESS PREVENTS UNDERSTANDING

The relation of Melchizedek and his priesthood to Christ cannot be understood by unbelievers. “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God … because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14). There was no use going into the deeper things of the New Covenant at that time, because they had become dull of hearing.

These unbelieving Jews could not truly understand the gospel, of course, until they put their trust in the Bearer of the gospel. The more they hear it without accepting it, the more spiritually sluggish and hardened to it they become.

At one time they had been stirred and moved and open. They were once on the brink of salvation. By now, however, they had sunk into a rather settled state of spiritual stupor.

DULLNESS IS UNPRODUCTIVE

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” (5:12)

They had been exposed to a great deal of God’s truth, but because they had never truly accepted it, they had not grown in it—and could not grow in it. These Jews not only were unqualified to teach, but needed to go back to kindergarten.

THE FIRST PRINCIPLES OF GOD’S ORACLES

To the Jews, the oracles of God meant the laws and the mind of God as revealed in the Old Testament. They had had considerable exposure to the New Covenant, but they did not even comprehend the Old, as evidenced by their lack of ability to handle deeper truth about Melchizedek.

“Before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:23-24).

The law was a tutor that taught the first and basic truths about God. In the New Covenant we are not under the tutor anymore. We have “grown up.”

PROGRESS OR REGRESS

These Jews were slipping back into spiritual infancy. By neglect and hardness, they had come to the place where they could only handle milk again. They must be fed again like babies. They would have to start again from the bottom up, gradually increasing their spiritual perception and understanding.

“For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.” (5:13)

A spiritual infant is not accustomed (apeiros) to deeper truths. A spiritual child could get some meaning out of the pictures and types of the Old Testament but not out of the word of righteousness of the gospel.

“But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (5:14)

The mature believer has discernment about what is right and wrong, true and false, helpful and harmful, righteous and unrighteous. Judaism is the infancy they are to leave in order to go on to the maturity of manhood by faith in the New Covenant Messiah.

THE POINT OF NO RETURN (6:1-8)

Persistent rejection of Christ may result in such persons’ passing the point of no return spiritually, of losing forever the opportunity of salvation. By not accepting the gospel when it was still “news,” these first century Jews had begun to grow indifferent to it and had become spiritually sluggish, neglectful, and hard. They were, in fact, in danger of going back to Judaism.

“Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings, and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” (6:1-2)

Leaving and press on to maturity are the first step in these Jews’ becoming spiritually mature. At no time does the Word of God suggest that a Christian drop the basics of Christianity and go on to something else. These Jews therefore had to leave all their ties with the Old Covenant, with Judaism, and accept Jesus Christ as Savior. They needed to abandon the shadows, the types, the pictures, and the sacrifices of the old economy and come to the reality of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.

“For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:13-14).

INCOMPLETE OLD TESTAMENT FEATURES

(A separate part of our study will address the differences between the Old Testament and Covenant on the one hand, and the New Testament and Covenant on the other, in more detail).

REPENTANCE FROM DEAD WORKS

Repentance of sin was preached in the Old Testament, but the doctrine of repentance becomes mature and complete, in Jesus Christ. Now that the New Covenant is in effect, repentance is meaningless without faith in Jesus Christ. “No one comes to the Father, but through Me,” said Jesus (John 14:6).

FAITH TOWARD GOD

Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father, but through Me.” (John 14:6).Peter said, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). There is no way to the Father except through the Son. “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

The Old Testament taught repentance from dead works and faith toward God. The New Testament teaches repentance in faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Way to God. The distinction is clear. The Jews addressed in this letter believed in God; but they were not saved.

INSTRUCTION ABOUT WASHINGS

(The King James translation (“doctrine of baptisms”) is misleading, especially since everywhere else, including Hebrews 9:10, the same Greek word (baptismos) is translated washings. The passage is not addressed to Christians.)

The Old Testament predicted that one day, ceremonial cleansings would be replaced by a spiritual one that God Himself would give: “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols” (Ezek. 36:25).

LAYING ON OF HANDS

This laying on of hands has nothing to do with the apostolic practices (Acts 5:18; 6:6; 8:17; 1 Tim. 4:14; etc.). Under the Old Covenant the person who brought a sacrifice had to put his hands on it, to symbolize his identification with it (Lev. 1:4; 3:8, 13).

Christians lay hold of Christ by putting your trust in Him.

RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD

The Old Testament doctrine of resurrection is not clear or complete. In the New Testament, resurrection is one of the major and most detailed doctrines. Christ said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

ETERNAL JUDGMENT

“God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Again, in the New Testament we are told a great deal more about eternal judgment.

The point of Hebrews 6:1-2 is simply that the unbelieving Jews should let go completely of the immature, elementary shadows and symbols of the Old Covenant and take hold of the mature and perfect reality of the New.

THE POWER

“And this we shall do, if God permits” (6:3)

“No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). By teacher and seeker alike, God’s sovereignty should always be recognized.

FIVE GREAT ADVANTAGES

“For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come.” (6:4-5)

1 THEY HAD BEEN ENLIGHTENED

Take notice that this passage makes no reference at all to salvation. Those who have once been enlightened are not spoken of as born again, made holy, or made righteous. The enlightenment spoken of here means to be mentally aware of something and carries no connotation of response—of acceptance or rejection, belief or disbelief.

Seeing God’s light and accepting it are not the same. Consequently, they were in danger of losing all opportunity of being saved, and of becoming apostate. “For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Pet. 2:20-21). Because of their unbelief, the light that was given to save them became a judgment against them.

2 THEY HAD TASTED OF THE HEAVENLY GIFT

The heavenly gift could be one of several things. The greatest heavenly gift, of course, is Christ Himself (God’s “indescribable gift,” 2 Cor. 9:15) and the salvation He brought (Eph. 2:8). Sadly, they only tasted it but did not receive it. Eternal life comes from eating the living bread, not simply tasting it.

3 THEY HAD PARTAKEN OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Partakers (Greek, metochos) has to do with association, not possession. These Jews had never possessed the Holy Spirit, although they had seen and even participated in numerous signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Thus, they did not have His indwelling.

4 THEY HAD TASTED THE WORD OF GOD

Tasting is the first step to eating. “O taste and see that the LORD is good” (Ps. 34:8). But hey just kept tasting, without swallowing it. Before long, its appealing taste was gone, and they became indifferent to it.

5 THEY HAD TASTED THE POWERS OF THE AGE TO COME

They saw the apostles do signs and wonders like those that will be reproduced in the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ. How guilty they will stand before God in the great white throne judgment.

“and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.” (6:6)

This warning once again speaks to the unsaved who have heard the truth and acknowledged it, but who have hesitated to embrace Christ. They are in danger of losing salvation—in the sense of losing the opportunity ever to receive it. There is no other salvation message they could hear, no evidence of the truth of the gospel they had not seen. They not only reject the gospel, but crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.

Many interpreters, however, hold that the passage teaches that salvation can be lost. If true, it would then also mean that once lost, salvation could never be regained. This is wrong as Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29). “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). If by Christ’s death we can be saved, certainly by His life of power and intercession we can be kept saved (Rom. 5:10).

They had turned around and gone back to Judaism. They therefore agreed with those who killed Jesus, and they put Him to an open shame again. Shame here connotes guilt. They declared openly that Jesus was guilty as charged. When a person goes away from Him in full light, he places Him on the cross again, in his own heart, and puts himself forever out of the Lord’s reach. “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:29).

“For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.” (6:7-8)

All those who hear the gospel are like the earth. The rain falls, the gospel message is heard. The gospel seed is planted but some of the growth is false and unproductive and become good only for burning.

A MESSAGE TO THE BELIEVERS (6:9-12)

“But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (6:9-12)

After the severest of warnings, comes the most loving of appeals and is speaking of things that accompany salvation. First the writer gives a brief word to the believers, who through faith and patience inherit the promises, and who should be imitated by the unbelievers. (The word “beloved” is never used in Scripture to refer to unbelievers.)

ACCOMPANIMENTS OF SALVATION

Many things accompany salvation. They do not reflect external ceremonial religion but internal regeneration, transformation, new life. Their significance comes not from repeated sacrifices but from the one perfect and complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The focus in not just on being enlightened but on being made new.

GOD DOES NOT FORGET HIS OWN

“For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” (6:10)

The proof that the Hebrews addressed in 6:9-10 were true believers was their loving, faithful, and continuing ministry to fellow believers. They had ministered and were still ministering. A Christian’s works are not what saved him or what keep him saved, but they are an evidence of his salvation (cf. John 13:34-35). Our faith is demonstrated by our works (James 2:18, 26).

But an even more significant evidence is love shown toward His name. The key to true Christian service is a burning love for the Lord. To love His name is to have a passionate desire for the glory of all that God is. Speaking of some traveling ministers, John says of them, “For they went out for the sake of the Name” (3 John 7).

God knows who are really His and who are faithful. He will not forget His own or their work for Him and they will not lose their salvation. “A book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name. ‘And they will be Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘. . . I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him’ ” (Mal. 3:16-17).

“And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, that you may not be sluggish, but be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (6:11-12)

Here, writer is again speaking to the unbelievers, those who had made some sort of profession of faith but who were in imminent danger of falling back into Judaism and of losing forever their opportunity for salvation. They should look at the true believers as an example of true faith to become co-inheritance of the eternal promise. Just as they were sluggish in hearing, they were sluggish in believing. The time for accepting Christ is never later; it is always now. “Now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is the ‘the day of salvation’” (2 Cor. 6:2).

(MAIN SOURCE: MACARTHUR NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY – JOHN MACARTHUR)