Hebrews 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. 10 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. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Any preacher worth his salt knows that there are both true and false believers in his audience. The author of Hebrews was a pastor worth his salt, and he addressed his audience knowing that some were true and some were false. Though he wrote harshly at times, he seems confident that the potential apostasy he saw was not widespread and was limited to only a few. In spite of this, he clearly had in mind a strong message to keep any would-be apostates from taking the plunge back into Judaism – a plunge in which it would be impossible to return from (6:6).
The author relented from his warnings beginning in 6:9 and was convinced that the dire situation he posed in 6:4-8 was not the case with most of his audience. He was convinced of “better things” concerning them – things relating to their salvation as opposed to their apostasy. After all, this group of Jews had been through many hardships dating back to the day they left Judaism to follow Christ. They endured sufferings, public humiliations, and even martyrdom for their faith. They had even joyfully accepted the fact that their property was seized for their commitment to Christ (Heb. 10:32ff.). The author is merely exhorting them through biblical preaching to remember what they had suffered, for God Himself would never forget their work and the love they once showed for His name through serving the saints who professed Christ.
What the author “desired” from the audience, instead of falling back into the worthless religion of Judaism, was “diligence.” First, the term “desire” translates a strong Greek verb which denotes strong desire which reveals that the author had a passionate concern for “each one of you.” Any pastor worth his salt loves his church with no exceptions. Secondly, his call for them to show the “same diligence” was his exhortation for them to be as strong in their faith in the present as it had been in the past (cf. 10:32-34). Their diligence over time would give them the full assurance of the hope they had in Christ. Without that diligence they would not only forfeit that blessed assurance, they might also prove themselves false as 6:4-8 had warned.
Now diligence in one’s faith consists of being eager to do one’s best, and the result of diligence produces a fail-safe against becoming “sluggish” (v. 12). These backslidden church-goers were to imitate those around them who lived out their faith in Christ daily and who “through faith and patience inherit the promises.” For a Jew these promises were for all who showed the same faith as their beloved Abraham. And imitating him and others like him was the one thing that would give them the assurance of salvation God so lovingly grants to His own.
Food for Thought
There are clergymen, and there are pastors. The former have a job; the latter have a passion. The author of Hebrews shows that he was a pastor – a pastor that loved God’s people. He loved them enough to preach to them from God’s Word, and he loved them enough to warn them severely and rebuke them for their willingness to do nothing with Christ. He preached the Bible word-for-word and showed that he was gifted not only as a teacher, as one with wisdom and knowledge, and as a prophet but also as one with the gift of exhortation and discernment. His deepest desire was for God’s people to be diligent in their faith. Now that’s a good pastor!
Hebrews 6:13-15… For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” 15 And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.
The author loved his audience. He loved them so much he did not fail to warn them about their sins. Some of them were contemplating a departure from the Christian faith, and others were just standing still doing nothing with their faith. After lambasting them for their behavior and warning them of the consequences of apostatizing he needed to lay the foundation for them once again about their security in Christ and the assurance Christ gives to those diligent in faith.
What is the basis for eternal security in Christ? The Bible teaches that salvation is eternal and cannot be revoked, that those who truly possess it can never lose it. But how can they trust this? The author pointed to Abraham – the patriarch of Israel and the father of all who believe.
In speaking of the “promises” in 6:12 that awaited those whose faith was real, the author begins to encourage his audience with the eternal hope that accompanies salvation. Abraham modeled true hope and faith possibly more than any other Jewish patriarch. His life and God’s promises to him are detailed in Genesis 12-23. In spite of Abraham’s shortcomings and sins God did not renege on His promises to him. He had made a unilateral covenant with Abraham to make his name great, bring forth a nation from his loins, give his descendants the land of Canaan, bring a “seed” (Messiah) from his loins, and to bless those who blessed him while cursing those who cursed him. This covenant was eternal. Abraham simply believed what God told him, and God counted that belief, Abraham’s faith in God, as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). And God delivered on His promises. Israel became a great nation, they possessed the land, and the promised “seed” – Jesus Christ was born from Abraham’s son of promise named Isaac.
Abraham “patiently endured” (v. 15) as he waited for God to fulfill what He promised. Of course this is the polar opposite of “sluggish” (6:12) which characterized some of those the author addressed who were about to give up because their own patience with God was wearing thin. They needed to look to Abraham’s example for encouragement. God promised him a son when he was 75 years old and when his wife Sarah was 66, and she was barren! Then God waited another 25 years before giving Abraham what He promised him, and by that time Sarah was 90. She did have a son – a miraculous son named Isaac. And Isaac’s line begat Jacob, which begat Judah, which begat King David, which begat Jesus Christ – the “seed” of Abraham!
God’s oath to Abraham was made between God and God because God has no one to swear to greater than Himself. And while God held true to His promise, Abraham continued to believe Him. He had faith in God, and he had hope in what God promised him. Abraham was like the illustration given in 6:7-8. He was like the land that had rain falling on it which produced an abundant crop. He was diligent in his faith and hope in God, and his actions proved it. Like a farmer who plants, weeds, and cultivates, Abraham was a believer who put his faith to work. And a faith that works produces an assurance of salvation that far surpasses sluggishness.
Food for Thought
There is no success without hope. Hope propels us and makes us passionate about what we believe. Without hope there is no passion, and without passion who really cares? That’s the problem with today’s church which offers worldly hope of a happy marriage and loud concert music dubbed “worship.” But our faith is in Christ; our hope is in what He offers. His promise is true, and if we would pursue Him diligently we might be awakened into a new Reformation.
Hebrews 6:16-20… For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. 17 In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, 20 where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
When God spoke to Abraham in Genesis 22:15, he not only promised him land, seed, and a blessing, He also swore on oath to confirm His promise. This is contrary to human oath’s which swear to God (who is greater than them). God, however, actually swore by Himself!
Now having established that God’s promises are sure, the author of Hebrews revealed how God’s purpose is unchangeable to those whom He made the promise to. The promise was not merely for Abraham but to “the heirs of promise” (v. 17) – a plurality of people. Of course Abraham and his descendants were the first to receive God’s promises (cf. Heb. 11:9), but the reason Abraham was an apt example for the Jews in the first century is because all Christians are included as “Abraham’s seed” (Gal. 3:29), for Abraham is the father of all who believe. Therefore, the Christian’s assurance of salvation is guaranteed by God’s promise and His oath, “two unchangeable things” (v. 18). And God is absolutely incapable of lying! (v. 18).
The author of Hebrews is actually writing to encourage his audience. Those who did not truly follow Christ would not have taken it that way, but encouragement was the goal. For God’s oath was given to all who believe dating back to Abraham who “believed God” and was counted righteous for his belief (Gen. 15:6). In Abraham “all the nations of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). Who are those who believe? Verse 18 says that it is those “who have taken refuge.” This phrase would have reminded Jews of the OT “cities of refuge” (Num. 35:9ff.; Josh. 20) – the six cities God had appointed into which a man could flee if he had accidentally killed someone. The elders of the city would then investigate the case, and if the man was deemed innocent for the crime he was permitted to live in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. Only then could the man return to his home, and at no time could revenge be exacted on the killer by the family he offended if in fact his crime had been deemed manslaughter.
So it is in Christ! He is the “city of refuge” who gives “strong encouragement” to those who “take hold of the hope” set before them. And having already established that Jesus is the Great High Priest, he will never die, so there is eternal salvation in the refuge he provides.
This teaching about Christ is all about hope, for Christ is the believer’s hope (Col. 1:5, 1 Tim. 1:1). And this hope is like an “anchor” to the soul – a spiritual anchor that is “sure and steadfast” being tied to heaven. Christ – our hope, our anchor – went as a “forerunner” into heaven so that believers might follow. This was contrary to the Jewish high priest who entered into the Holy of holies where no one could follow. But all can follow Jesus just by believing.
Food for Thought
Want genuine assurance that you’re saved? Then press on to maturity while it is still called today. If you begin to drift from Christ (Heb. 2:1-4), then you’ll eventually start to question Christ (Heb. 3:7ff.). Then you’ll grow dull toward Christ rejecting the solid food of the Word (Heb. 5:11-6:20). Who are you anchored to? If it’s not Christ, then you’re drifting already!
· In Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24-30; 36-43) he spoke of two kinds of people. The wheat represented God’s true children and the tares represented the children of the devil. In the parable the wheat and the tares grow up next to each other and look so much alike that if someone desired to pull up the tares they would also pull up the wheat stalks which look just like the tares. The point? There are many charlatans today who claim to be Christians and who look just like true believers. They attend church regularly, say the right things, behave morally, and appear to have it all together. But they’re false, and only God knows their hearts.
· He wasn’t concerned with them having lasting marriages or their ability to live the good life in the present. He was concerned primarily with their relationship to Christ. Their relationship to Christ was all that mattered to him.
· Our hope in Christ is like an anchor for the soul. The anchor was a popular symbol in the early church. At least sixty-six pictures of anchors have been found in the catacombs. The Greek stoic philosopher Epictetus wrote: “One must not tie a ship to a single anchor, nor life to a single hope.”
· Vv. 9-12: What you started in the Christian life, finish strong!
o Growing believers have full assurance of salvation.
o A word for pastors:
§ Recognize that there are true and false believers in church
§ Always preach from an encouraging optimistic standpoint
§ Deeply desire for your audience to show diligence in striving for Christ
§ Love your people enough to preach word for word, to warn, and exhort
· Vv. 13-15: Assurance and the hope of salvation found in Abraham
o God’s promise to him
o Abe’s faith in God’s promise
o Abe’s works in awaiting the impossible promise
o Believers are part of Abe’s seed through faith (Gal. 3:16)
o Hope: makes us passionate about our salvation; consider what hope other churches give to congregants… marriage and concert music?
o What if all Christians were diligent to make their calling sure? Reformation?
· Vv. 16-20: God’s oath means salvation is sure!
o God made the promise to Abraham and his “seed”
o Hope: press onto maturity while it is still called today… If you begin to drift from Christ (Heb. 2:1-4), then you’ll eventually start to question Christ (Heb. 3:7ff.). Then you’ll grow dull toward Christ rejecting the solid food of the Word (Heb. 5:11-6:20). Who are you anchored to? If it’s not Christ, then you’re drifting already!
9 Πεπείσμεθα δὲ περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀγαπητοί, τὰ κρείσσονα καὶ ἐχόμενα
we have been pursuaded (RPI) but concerning of you, brethren, the better and having (PMPtcp)
σωτηρίας, εἰ καὶ οὕτως λαλοῦμεν. 10 οὐ γὰρ ἄδικος ὁ θεὸς ἐπιλαθέσθαι
of salvation, and if thus we speak (PAI). Not for unrighteousness the God to forget (AMIn)
τοῦ ἔργου ὑμῶν καὶ τῆς ἀγάπης ἧς ἐνεδείξασθε εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ,
of the works of you and of the love which you demonstrated (AMI) in the name of him
διακονήσαντες τοῖς ἁγίοις καὶ διακονοῦντες. 11 ἐπιθυμοῦμεν δὲ
having served (AAPtcp) to the holy ones and serving (PAPtcp). We desire (PAI) but
ἕκαστον ὑμῶν τὴν αὐτὴν ἐνδείκνυσθαι σπουδὴν πρὸς τὴν πληροφορίαν
each of you the same to demonstrate (PMIn) diligence to the full persuasion
τῆς ἐλπίδος ἄχρι τέλους, 12 ἵνα μὴ νωθροὶ γένησθε, μιμηταὶ δὲ τῶν διὰ
of the hope until the end so that not dullyou might become (AMS), imitators but of those through
πίστεως καὶ μακροθυμίας κληρονομούντων τὰς ἐπαγγελίας. 13 Τῷ γὰρ
faith and patience ones inheriting (PAPtcp) the promises. To the for
Ἀβραὰμ ἐπαγγειλάμενος ὁ θεός, ἐπεὶ κατʼ οὐδενὸς εἶχεν μείζονος
Abraham having promised (AMPtcp) the God, since by no one he had (IAI) greater
ὀμόσαι, ὤμοσεν καθʼ ἑαυτοῦ 14 λέγων· εἰ μὴν εὐλογῶν εὐλογήσω σε καὶ
to take oath (AAIn), he took oath (AAI) by himself saying (PAPtcp) if yet speaking well (PAPtcp) I will speak (FAI) you
πληθύνων πληθυνῶ σε· 15 καὶ οὕτως μακροθυμήσας ἐπέτυχεν τῆς
and multiplying (PAPtcp) I will multiply (FAI) you. And thus having patiently waited (AAPtcp) he obtained (AAI) the
ἐπαγγελίας. 16 ἄνθρωποι γὰρ κατὰ τοῦ μείζονος ὀμνύουσιν, καὶ πάσης
promises. For men by the greater swear (PAI) and all
αὐτοῖς ἀντιλογίας πέρας εἰς βεβαίωσιν ὁ ὅρκος· 17 ἐν ᾧ περισσότερον
to them word against limit into confirmation the oath. In which more excessive
βουλόμενος ὁ θεὸς ἐπιδεῖξαι τοῖς κληρονόμοις τῆς ἐπαγγελίας τὸ
desiring (PMPtcp) the God to prove (AAIn) to the inheritors of the promise the
ἀμετάθετον τῆς βουλῆς αὐτοῦ ἐμεσίτευσεν ὅρκῳ, 18 ἵνα διὰ δύο
irrevocable of the plan of him he mediated (AAI) an oath, so that through two
πραγμάτων ἀμεταθέτων, ἐν οἷς ἀδύνατον ψεύσασθαι [τὸν] θεόν,
practices irrevocable, in which impossible to lie (AMIn) the God
ἰσχυρὰν παράκλησιν ἔχωμεν οἱ καταφυγόντες κρατῆσαι τῆς
strong encouragement we have (PAS) the having taken refuge (AAPtcp) to hold (AAIn) of the
προκειμένης ἐλπίδος· 19 ἣν ὡς ἄγκυραν ἔχομεν τῆς ψυχῆς ἀσφαλῆ τε
lying before (PMPtcp) hope; which as anchor we have (PAI) of the soul secure both
καὶ βεβαίαν καὶ εἰσερχομένην εἰς τὸ ἐσώτερον τοῦ καταπετάσματος,
and certain and going on (PMPtcp) into the inner of the veil,
20 ὅπου πρόδρομος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν εἰσῆλθεν Ἰησοῦς, κατὰ τὴν τάξιν
where forerunner on behalf of us entered (AAI) Jesus, by of the order of
Μελχισέδεκ ἀρχιερεὺς γενόμενος εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.
Melchizedek high priest having become (AMPtcp) into the eternal.