Grace For The Journey
The writer gives these warnings in the letter to the Hebrews for the purpose of encouraging his readers and hearers. He wants to encourage them to move on, grow in their faith, move forward and upward, and persevere in the faith.
The warnings are not given
To unsettle true believers,
To encourage them onward.
We noted last time the similarity of the writer’s use of these warnings to the navigation systems most of us use when we drive. We have a GPS navigation system that guides us on our journey as we travel. The final destination is “locked into” the device and the system guides us, turn-by-turn, as we make our way to the end: “Accident ahead, take exit next right” or “Stay on the current road for 25 miles,” etc. The warnings are not given to unsettle us, but rather to encourage and guide us along the way. We will get to that final destination. That is how Christians should hear these warnings.
Non-Christians will hear the warnings in Hebrews differently. And they should. The writer realizes that there will be some reading his letter or hearing the letter read who are not on the right path. They have not yet been saved.
The non-Christian should hear the warning
As an alarming and unsettling statement
Warning of impending danger if they
Do not commit to Christ and
Follow Him in the way.
In fact, the writer indicates in Chapter 6 that there are some non-Christians who have gotten really close to the things of God, really close to Christ, really close to salvation, but never committed and, in time, turned their backs upon Christ in utterly rejecting Him as Savior. So decisive and so final was their rejection that it was tantamount to re-crucifying Jesus. These unbelievers who utterly fall away from Christ are described there in Chapter 6, verse 6 as they who “crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” Their public rejection of Christ was like driving fresh nails into the hands and feet of Christ, bringing open shame upon the name and work of Jesus Christ.
Let’s review our last study and recall these divisions in the passage. The first point is the warning itself. That is verses 4-6. This is where we read about those who do not go on following Christ, those unbelievers who finally fall away from Christ. We studied the phrases the writer uses to describe them. In verse 4 he describes they who know only the temporary blessings that come to people who get close to the things of God. They were “once enlightened,” and “have tasted the heavenly gift,” sampled it, like one sampling food from a tray, but not committing to the full meal. They are they who verse 4 tells us, “Have become partakers of the Holy Spirit” and so on. But they not saved. Close, but never committing to Christ.
Second point is an illustration in verses 7-8 where the writer describes how two people respond differently to the same gospel message. The first one, the saved one, is described in verse 7. Verse 7 describes the way a Christian responds to the Word of God, to the gospel message, to Christ. Verse 7 says, “For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God.” Verse 7 recalls our Lord’s teachings in Matthew 13, the Parable of the sower. Verse 7 is like the person who hears the word of the kingdom like seed falling on good ground. He bears fruit. Verse 8, however, describes the person who hears the word, but because of the hardness of the soil of his heart, or because of persecution or attraction to the things of the world, he endures only for a while and then stumbles, bearing no fruit. Verse 8 says, “but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.” Verse 8 describes the person who produces no fruit in his or her life. The ground of his life is left in its natural condition, bearing only thorns and briers. As when Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, the ground no longer produced fruit naturally, so man today . . .
Will bear no fruit apart
From supernatural empowering,
Apart from the gift of salvation by
Grace through faith in Christ.
Apart from grace, all the natural man
Can produce through his own work
Are the works of thorns and briers.
No spiritual or acceptable fruit.
The writer says in the next verse, verse 8, “But, beloved” (now, he is addressing those who are on the right path, the beloved, Christians) “we are confident of better things concerning you …” Here he provides the third point of our outline – “An encouragement.” Which is what we will be looking at this morning.
Having taken time to review and get a sense of the context of what the writer has been saying, we are ready to study this encouragement in verses we will look at today. You get something of the pastoral heart of the writer of this letter in verses 9-12. He shows them that while he was describing what happens to those who utterly, decisively, and finally fall away from Christ, he does not believe this to be the case with those who read his letter. He is writing to them about such things, but he is confident that this will not be the case with the majority who hear the letter being read in worship.
As John Owen puts it, the writer wrote “unto” them, but he did not write “of” them. In writing to the Hebrews, the author described the actions of those who had fallen away from Christ, left Him, and rejected Him. In verse 9, he declares, “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you …” The term “beloved” is used only here in Hebrews just this one time. The writer seems to have given much thought to using the term since he uses it just here. It is a word that speaks of being a part of the same family, like brothers and sisters. He also says, “we are confident of better things concerning you.” The word “better” occurs no fewer than 13 times in the letter. Remember that the main theme of this letter to the Hebrews is the theme that Jesus is better than anyone or anything. A summary of the book of Hebrews is captured in three words: Jesus is better.
Verse 9 goes on to say, “… Yes, things that accompany(or belong to) salvation, though we speak in this manner.” This is yet another reason why we know that the people the writer describes up in verses 4-5 are not true believers. In verse 4 he described those who know only temporary blessings that come to those who get close to the things of God. These people were “once enlightened,” and “have tasted the heavenly gift,” sampled it, but not committing to it. They are they who “have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,” but they not saved. Close, but never committing to Christ.
Do you see what he is saying in verse 9? He is talking about those of you who know the better things of salvation and what belongs to salvation, things such as the fruit of the Spirit, your love for the name of God, and so on. Not just temporary blessings that can come upon any person, but better things that belong only to Christians, “better things that accompany salvation.”
It is in this context then, the context of true believers, true Christians, that the writer provides two main encouragements. First . . .
I. Keep Ministering To God’s People – Verses 9-10.
True believers so love God that they love the people of God. Remember how Jesus summed up the entire law of the Old Testament in Matthew 22:37-40? He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The two go together. The Apostle John is very clear on this as he writes in 1 John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar.”
The writer in verse 10 draws the same connection. Love for God’s name is a love that results in love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Love that is upward
Is connected to
Love that is outward.
The two go together.
Verse 10 states, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
Love for brothers and sisters is one evidence of a changed heart. Love for God’s people is the fruit of one who is genuinely saved. Verse 10 describes the person whose life is like “the earth which drinks in the rain that comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receiving blessing from God.” They are fruitful. They love and serve God by loving and serving others.
The writer encourages Christians, those whom he describes as they who have shown love “toward His name,” love toward God, to go on loving and ministering to the people of God. Keep at it in this “work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints (to God’s people), and do minister.” Keep ministering to God’s people. And he says, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love.” God will not forget what you have done for Him and for His people. Though the people may forget, God will not. He remembers every selfless deed and work you do and will reward you. Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, but treasures in heaven.
Keep ministering to God’s people. Secondly . . .
II. Keep Moving Towards God’s Promises – Verses 11-12.
Verses 11 and 12 picture this movement, this progression forward of true Christians, their perseverance to the end, “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end. that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
The writer is encouraging his readers to persevere in their faith. Keep moving forward. Keep their eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.
Verses 10 and 11 go together. To the same degree Christians love the name of God by ministering to the saints, so are they to apply the same diligence in grasping the assurance of their salvation. The “full assurance of hope” is the absolute confidence that God will bring them along in their faith until their work on earth is done (Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you, will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” The point the author is making is his desire that every one of his readers would show a similar keenness in fully grasping the hope that is within them.
Do you see how the writer wants Christians to have assurance?! He does not want to unsettle true believers. You can know you are saved. You can have assurance that God accepts you. Apparently, some of them did not have “the full assurance of the hope.” Something was lacking. They had watched as some from among them had become disenchanted with the Christian faith and had gone back to Judaism. Perhaps this had a negative effect upon the others who remained. They lacked assurance. Would God really present them faultless at the last day? Would they be fully and finally saved?
Some of you may need to grow in your faith in this regard. You feel you love others, but you have no assurance God loves you. You are wondering whether God accepts you in Christ. Show the same diligence that you have in your love for Christ, show the same diligence in truly believing God, taking Him at His Word, fully grasping the hope that is within you. It is largely a matter of faith, of taking Him at His Word. The diligence you have in loving God’s name by serving God’s people today – be just as diligent, or work just as hard at – fully grasping the hope that is within you through faith in Christ, believing who He is and what He has done for you.
Do this, he says, so that, verse 12, “That you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Do not become sluggish! It is the same word translated as “dull” as in chapter 5, verse 11. Do not become lazy in your Christian walk. Do not pull over when your GPS is telling you to keep moving. The road ahead may be difficult, and you have hit a bump on the way, but keep moving on. And the writer provides a helpful motivation here in verse 12 when he says, “… but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Keep moving toward God’s promises.
Remember where you are headed! Remember your final destination at the end of your route. Keep moving till you hear, “You have arrived at your final destination.” And when you arrive at your final destination – through patience, or perseverance – you will “inherit the promises.” Then the writer provides Abraham as an example of someone who kept moving, kept going forward in faith, and moving towards the promises of God. We will study this next time, Lord willing, verses 13 and following. The writer is saying, be encouraged as you look to people like Abraham as an example of someone you can imitate, “imitating those who through faith and patience inherited the promise.” Abraham was looking forward to a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10). Be like him in that sense. Be inspired by Abraham. And you too keep moving forward, moving towards God’s promises, namely the fulness of salvation in eternal life through Christ.
Here then is the key to moving on, the key to perseverance. In a word it is “faith.” The writer encourages his readers to not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith … inherit the promises. Faith. Believing. Trusting not in yourself, or what you can do, but looking to God who said He will get you there. Trusting God’s Word as in Ephesians 1:13-14, “… having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
I read about a lady who got on a train. There were many trains at the station so she asked someone which was the correct train to get on. She was told which train and she got on. But she was nervous. She was not exactly sure she was on the right train. She was thinking about getting off. She turned to someone next to her and said, “Is this the right train to St. Louis?” The person next to her said, “Yes, this is it.” So she sat there and, before long started thinking maybe the person next to her was on the wrong train himself so she turned to another person and said, “Sir, is this the train to St. Louis?” He said, “Yes, ma’am. This is the train to St. Louis.” She felt a little better, but then doubt crept back in. At about this moment the train’s conductor came by. She said to him, “Sir, I’m going to St. Louis. Am I on the right train?” The conductor said, “Yes, ma’am. You’re on the right train. I will take you there because I am the one running the engine.” Finally, the woman had the assurance she sought, assurance that she was on the right train.
Your assurance is not going to come so much from a family member, a friend, or even from a pastor. Who knows, any one of these persons may be on the wrong train themselves. They may lead you astray. You want to be sure you are on the right path and that you will arrive at your final destination, then open the Word of God and hear directly from the Conductor Himself.
Be diligent to have full assurance of the hope till the end. Imitate those who through faith inherit the promises. Learn from God’s Word and live by it. Look and stand on Christ, the One who runs the engine of your faith.
As we close, I want us to consider what we’ve heard today. Do you have genuine saving faith? Are you experiencing the full and abundant life of Christ? Or is your life like barren ground, bearing only thorns and briers? Can you say that there is real fruit in your life, a love for God’s name and for God’s people? Do you love Him? Really love Him? Are you living for Him – not for what you think you can get from Him: good health, a good job, a good marriage? Is your life is bound up with Christ and your eyes are fixed upon Him. Do you have “full assurance of your hope to the end” because of Him?
If you do not know Him, turn to Him today. Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
For those of us who are saved, we thank God for Jesus – the One who through death into life everlasting He passed, that we may follow Him there. Ma God give you grace to follow on with Him, to live for Him, to bring glory and honor to Him.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”