Hebrews 10:26-39: Don’t Throw Away Your Confidence

Read: Hebrews 10:26-39

Hebrews 10:26 is among one of the more controversial texts in Hebrews along with Hebrews 6:4. The center of the controversy here, as with the text in chapter six, has to do with a doctrine called “perseverance of the saints” or “eternal security”. Basically there are two camps: there those that think that one can lose their salvation after they have been saved and there are those who think that once a person is saved, there is nothing that person can do to lose his or her salvation. Scripture does teach that those who believe belong to God and cannot be taken away. John describes this relationship using a shepherd and his sheep as a metaphor—the sheep know the shepherds voice and cannot be taken away. These are the ones who have eternal life, and it cannot be taken away (John 10:27-29).  Paul makes a beautiful doxology in Romans 8:33-39, where he is convinced that nothing can separate those who believe from Christ. The role of the Holy Spirit in salvation is that the Holy Spirit as a “seal” for salvation. The idea is that once the decree of redemption is given, it is sealed as a king seals a royal document by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 4:30, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

To fully understand Hebrews 10:26, one has to look at the context of the verse.  Hebrews 10:26 is a transitional verse between the practical pointers that the author of Hebrews had just given and a warning passage concerning willful sin, particularly those who were apparently forsaking their gatherings.  This text, however, is different from Hebrews 6 on two counts. First, Hebrews 6 is talking about doctrine and spiritual maturity, and apparently some had fallen prey to deceptive teachings that had caused them to believe something other than the true gospel of Jesus. Hebrews 10, however, is talking about practical theology. Second, the Hebrews 10 text uses the first person pronoun “we” when talking about those who fall into apostasy rather than a third person as in Hebrews 6. He is including the believers to whom he is writing and himself in the group he is talking about here. These distinctions are necessary, because these two text, although similar, are not talking about the same thing.

The “we” that continue sinning after “receive knowledge of the truth” no longer have “sacrifice for sin”. This text continues, citing from the Old Testament about the judgment of God. He cites from Deuteronomy 16:35 where God consumes Korah and his company because they rebelled against Moses and makes a general warning about those who break the Law of Moses. He builds on this saying how much more so the offense is when one tramples on God and his grace. He then quotes from Deuteronomy 32:35-26, talking about how judgment belongs to God and how God will judge his people, then makes a weighty proclamation about how terrifying it is to fall into the hands of a the living God. The author of Hebrews then turns their attention to the days when they were under persecution for doing good and reminds them of the joy that their salvation brought them, and encourages them not to throw it away because of this.

This first-person, inclusive warning suggests that in some instances, when Christians are obstinate, God will give them over to the world and let the world deal with them rather than protect him with his divine grace (that is, his sacrifice for sin) and his “rest” (Hebrews 3:7-19). When Jesus forgives a person of his or her sin, the forgiveness is applied when God passes his final judgment, but it does not necessarily spare believers from the consequences of sin while on earth. And sometimes, God will let the consequences of one’s sin consume them. Life itself is hard enough, but life while dealing with the consequences of sin is probably as wretched as it comes in this life. The author of Hebrews then quotes from Habakkuk 2:3-4, reminding them what the prophet said – God is coming, but wait for him in faith, because faith has great value even in the here and now. These last few verses set up the next chapter that has been called the “Hall of Fame of Faith” when talking about faithful men and women throughout history. Rather than shrink back, they held to the promises of God rather than go back to lives of unrighteousness and sin.

So the warning goes out even now – deliberate, willful sinning after receiving knowledge of the truth may put a believer in a place he does not want to be: outside the will of God all the while reaping the consequences for sin. Rather than do this, believers should remain faithful, and even when the bad times come there will be joy because of the hope of salvation. A wise man will not so quickly throw away his confidence, because it has great value!

Lord, I’m safest when I trust you! Help me to do this instead of sin against you!

Hebrews 6:9-19: An Anchor of The Soul

Read: Hebrews 6:9-19

God taking an oath is a peculiar thing – when one makes an oath he or she usually takes the oath on something higher than his or herself to ensure the veracity of the oath. For God, however, there is no higher being. He is the ultimate reality, and therefore can only take oath upon one thing, namely himself. The author of Hebrews picks up on this when he is talking about the solidarity of God’s promises to his people. The interesting thing about God taking oath upon himself is that the oath itself becomes a guaranteed thing too because God cannot lie. When the author of Hebrews is talking about two unchangeable things, he’s talking about God and God’s oath. God is unchanging, and if he imposes and oath, the oath is unchanging too.

In the context of Hebrews 6, the oath that the author is talking about is the oath that God gave to Abraham in Genesis 17:2 where God promises descendants to a 99 year-old, childless Abram whose name was changed to Abraham – the father of many. God also instituted the practice of circumcision as a sign of this oath. He brings up this oath that God took with his people because the manifestation of this oath took numerous generations to fulfill (in fact, it is still being fulfilled!) God did not go back on his promise that he made Abraham. The author of Hebrews is showing that God is faithful to his word, and that the promises given to the readers will be fulfilled too, even until the end.

The promises that were given to those who believe are still in effect. God is still unchanging and still fulfilling his promises. God’s unchanging nature and unchanging oaths are, as the author Hebrews put it,  an “anchor of the soul” – something to cling too and rest on in a world were promises are broken and disappointment abounds.

Lord, you are the anchor of my soul!

Hebrews 3:1-6: A House of Hope

Read: Hebrews 3:1-6

The author of Hebrews, after establishing that Jesus makes family of those who believe, calls his readers “holy brethren” and points reiterates that Jesus is the “Apostle” (which literally means “sent one”) and High Priest of the of the Christian faith. The author continues, this time making an argument about Jesus’ superiority to Moses. Moses is the central character in the book of Exodus, and is the one who lead the Israelites out of Egypt and gave them the Law. The author analogizes Moses as servant of a house, pointing out that everything Moses did was a servant’s role to prepare for the son of the house. Because Jesus is a son of the house and Christians are adopted into the family of God, they too get to be a part of the house.

Jesus in the gospel of John makes a similar statement concerning a house. He says there are many places in his Father’s house and he is going there to prepare a place for them (John 14:1-2). This comes on the heels of Jesus telling his disciples not to be troubled because of what he just told them in Chapter 13. Jesus was going away, but was trying to comfort his disciples – he knew they would be facing hardship because of Jesus’ name’s sake. Regardless of hardship though, there is a great hope. Hebrews 3:6 speaks of a great hope that Christians have because of Jesus such that Christians can “boast” and rejoice in it, and all the more because Jesus is true to his word. This is real confidence, and Christians can be firm in it.

Lord, help me to be confident is in the house you built!

Ecclesiastes 9:1-6: Real Hope

Read: Ecclesiastes 9:1-6

The Preacher seems to be all doom and gloom in chapter 9 of Ecclesiastes. He again he reflects on the common destiny of all people – the righteous and the wicked, the ones who take oaths and those that do not – there is no difference so the Preacher thinks. The Preacher tops off his lament with saying that the human hearts are full of evil and madness. In a poetic form, the Preacher waxes about how people are forgotten after they are dead. Not only do they die, the memories of the ones who have died die as well. And yet in spite of all this, the Preacher says there is still hope in the ones who live. He seems to think that even in spite of the certainty of death and the obvious evil that fills people hearts people still have a hope – there is a certain yearning to for the eternal in the hearts of men (Ecclesiastes 3:1-15).

God set men’s heart on this, and perhaps on purpose. In Acts 17:22-31, Paul gives a discourse concerning how God made the world and its contents and has made the world such that men would seek after God. Paul then talks about the coming judgment and how God has commanded everyone to repent and how Jesus’s resurrection is the proof of this. While the Preacher seems only certain about death, Paul is saying that there is a coming judgment for all – even those who have died. The hope that that yearns for the eternal is made possible by resurrection.

The Christian gospel strikes a chord with men because it is with the Christian gospel that one finds what he or she is seeking and he fulfills the yearnings of his or her heart with the gospel. 1 Peter 1:3-5 couldn’t say it better:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (ESV)

There is new birth to a “living hope” through the resurrection of Jesus. This stands in stark contrast to the doom and gloom of the Preacher talking about the evil that exists in all men and the certainty of death. This is free from evil the taint of sin and is eternal. This is what the heart is seeking and yearns for and can only be found one place, and that is through faith in Jesus. Christians should, as 1 Peter 1:4 says, rejoice in this hope. The hope here is not pie-in-the-sky, rather it is as real and was proved to be so by the resurrection of Jesus!

Lord, your resurrection gives me a living hope! Help me to celebrate that!

Ecclesiastes 4:1-3: Meaning in Life

Read: Ecclesiastes 4:1-3

The “Preacher” of Ecclesiastes adds to his remarks in Chapter 3 in Chapter 4. He had remarked that he saw no meaning in the fact that in justice and judgment there was evil, and that there was no difference between the righteous and unrighteous in death. The preacher continues on this theme, thinking that power is in the hands of oppressors and that there is no advocate for the oppressed. He reckons it is better to be dead than alive, and even better yet is the one who had never been born – that is the one who has never seen the evil in the world, even where there should be justice and judgment. The words are a harsh sentiment, but the Preacher is not necessarily speaking of things in light of the fully revealed Christ. The Preacher when he made these remarks apparently had not concluded the fact that it was best for man to fear the Lord.

The relationship between life and death is more realized in the New Testament in light of resurrection. The hope offered by resurrection gave Paul a completely different attitude towards life and death. He says first that to live is Christ and to dies is gain (Philippians 1:21). In saying this, Paul says that there is joy in serving the Lord even though he faces suffering, and to die is gain because one gets to do the second thing: to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as being sure of what is hoped for and confident of things not seen – that is being certain of some future promised that has not yet been received. Knowing that Jesus died and rose from the dead conquers death is the basis of the hope for the Christian and that even though one day, he or she may still yet live.

Christians therefore need not be pessimistic in life or in death as the Preacher was. Saying that it is better to be dead than alive or better to have never been born because of evil is not the mark of a Christian, rather saying it is best to be a child of God because of the hope  offered by God to all those that believe. The job of the Christian is not to mope over the apparent injustice in life, rather the job of the Christian to proclaim the life that is offered in Jesus and how sin is judgment are reconciled in the Cross. The heart of the Christian can know and believe in the hope, knowing that to live is Christ having his joy and to die is to be with the Lord.

Lord, you are what gives meaning to life!

John 16:16-22: A Living Jesus Means A Living Hope

Read: John 16:16-22

Jesus in a roundabout way predicts his death and resurrection—they will see him now, and in a little while they will not see him, and then will see him again. The disciples are confused by these remarks. Jesus had also said that he is going to be with the Father. Jesus was actually talking about the post resurrection appearances that he made to the disciples and then other witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Jesus adds some more commentary to the mix in that they will lament and have grief, but that their grief will be turned to joy. He compares it to a mother giving birth, who is in pain at the time of birth but then forgets the pain after the baby is born. The joy of the disciples was made complete after Jesus resurrected from the dead.

The resurrection was a momentous event for certain, as it fulfills the Christian hope for eternal life. Paul calls Jesus the “first fruits” and “first born” of the resurrection that is to come (1 Corinthians 15:20, Colossians 1:18). Because Jesus has been raised from the dead, the hope of the Christian is real. Peter calls it a “living hope” and a “sure salvation” as he expounds upon the implications of the resurrection of Jesus (1 Peter 1:3-12). Paul also calls it “victory” because death has been defeated and has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:50-57. The victory, assurance, and hope that come from the resurrection of Jesus most certainly should complete the joy of those who believe in the reality of Jesus’ resurrection.

Christians living today have the same hope promised to the disciples, but there are also times in the lives of believers when they too lose loved ones as the disciples were about to lost Jesus. They grieved his loss as anyone else would grieve and as Christians today grieve. These can be hard and confusing times when nothing seems to make sense and it God feels distant. But when a believer dies, other believers can celebrate because of the living hope of resurrection that Jesus offers. Nothing more could be more reassuring than that, but what else is true is that it will be the last of such partings. The perishable is traded for immortality, so death will be no more!

Lord, help me to see your hope clearly when it is hard to see anything at all!