Christ is Superior to Aaron Part 5 “The Warning against Dullness toward God’s Word 4” – Hebrews 6:9-12
Pastor Mark Hardy August 16, 2015
Two men wanted to climb the Matterhorn, a huge pyramid-shaped mountain in the Alps that straddles the border between Switzerland and Italy. So they hired three guides and began their ascent at the steepest and most slippery of its four faces. The men roped themselves together in the following order: guide, climber, guide, climber and guide. They had gone only a little way up the side of the mountain when the guide at the bottom lost his footing and was held up temporarily by the other four men, because each had a toehold in the niches they had cut in the ice.
However, when the climber in front of him also slipped the weight of these two men pulled down the next two men ahead of them. The only one to stand firm was the guide at the front, who had driven a spike deep into the ice. Because he held his ground, the four men beneath him were secure and able to regain their footing.
What a great picture of the Christian’s eternal security in Jesus Christ. Just as these four men had lost their footing and slipped on the steep mountain side, so we as believers can lose our footing and slip into sin. The hymn writer Robert Robinson said it well, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” But praise God that we are eternally tied to Jesus Christ, the anchor of our soul. And because He stands firm, we are secure in Him and will never perish.
This is what we will be looking at this morning.
Having just directed one of the most sobering, severe and terrifying warnings in the New Testament at Jewish believers in Hebrews 6:6-8, the author is now concerned that what he has just said may make some of the more sensitive believers’ question their salvation. Whereas this is not always a bad thing depending on how one is living, he goes on to reassure them in the promises of God Himself, who faithfully keeps all of His promises to His children. Turn in your Bible to Hebrews 6.
In Hebrews 6:9-12 we see two reasons why every one of us as believers in Jesus Christ can have a firm confidence and assurance of our salvation right now in the present.
The first reason is because:
I. Good Works evidence genuine Salvation
A. Look at v. 9: But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.
1. This is the only time in the letter where the author addresses his readers as “beloved,” which is a term of endearment. Since the word “beloved” is used in Scripture to refer only of believers and never of unbelievers, he is tenderly expressing to them not only his love, but also his confidence in that they are truly saved.
2. Although it was necessary to speak to them “in this way” of a severe warning about the eternal consequences of apostasy since they had regressed into spiritual infancy, immaturity and apathy, the author and whoever is with him says “…we are convinced of better things concerning you.” And these “better things” are “things that accompany salvation.”
3. These “things” include the characteristics of genuine salvation we saw in vv. 4-5 where they have “…once been enlightened, tasted of the heavenly gift, been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come.”
4. And the description of them as the “ground” or land in v. 7 on which rain frequently falls and brings forth useful “vegetation” or produce. And having already received the blessing of God they will yet experience further blessing.
5. And the “things” we will be looking at in v. 10. Therefore, despite giving them this severe warning to elicit faith that perseveres in faithfulness to Christ to the end as a means of keeping them from turning away from Him, the author believes they have displayed indisputable evidence of genuine salvation and God’s blessing in their lives.
6. He is optimistic about their future salvation because of the transformation that has taken place in their lives.
B. We see this in v. 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.
1. Never forget that God remembers His own! He is not “unjust” or unrighteous so as to “forget” the good works of love and service His children have done for Him and others.
2. The author is not talking about salvation by works here. We are clearly told in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
3. But v. 10 goes on to say, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
4. We are saved by faith not works, but saving faith works. In other words, good works evidence genuine salvation.
5. Jesus said in Matthew 7:17 that a “good tree bears good fruit” and is known by that fruit. And James 2:26 declares, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.”
6. Therefore, those who profess to be saved but fail to produce good works contradict their profession by their lives and have no basis for thinking that they truly belong to the people of God. Scripture challenges these people to examine themselves to see whether they are truly in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).
7. But here the author commends these believers for the good works that were manifested in their lives. Notice again that he says “…your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.”
8. God’s “name” stands for all that He is. Because of their initial love for the Lord they worked for Him in loving acts of service to “the saints,” which refers to fellow Christians.
9. In Hebrews 10:32-34 we read, “But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.”
10. In the past when they first became Christians their love for God was clearly by willingly enduring affliction, public ridicule and the loss of their possessions for lovingly ministering to those in prison. And even though they presently were not where they should be spiritually with the Lord, they were “still ministering to the saints.”
11. But God did not forget their labor of love they did for Him and others. And He doesn’t forget ours as well.
12. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “…to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Mk. 9:41)
13. It is crucial that we understand that if we truly love the Lord, we will lovingly serve one another, for God inseparably connects these together (Matt. 22:37-40). Therefore, to say we love God while we have no use for our brothers and sisters in Christ is to lie (1 Jn. 4:20-21).
14. Loving one another is not an option; it is the foundation of Christian living. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
15. Now when these “better things” that “accompany salvation” characterize our lives they are substantial grounds for our firm confidence and assurance of our salvation. The second reason we can be confident and assured of our salvation right now in the present is because:
II. Our Obedience confirms our Assurance
A. Look at v. 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,
1. Here we see the author’s deep concern for the spiritual progress of “each one” of these believers as conveyed in the word “desire,” which refers to an intense longing or yearning. He earnestly wants all of them to “press on to maturity” (v. 1).
2. God’s intention is that the direction of our spiritual lives be always onward and upward. Only God by His grace can change us and cause us to grow spiritually (Phil. 2:13), but we are responsible to give our all (Phil. 2:12).
3. Spiritual progress demands diligent effort on our part. This is an exhortation to perseverance in diligent obedience to the Lord.
4. The same diligence displayed by these believers in their loving service to others is to be matched by an equal diligence in obedience to God “…so as to realize the full assurance (measure or development) of hope until the end.” Only an obedient life will allow us to increase in “hope.”
5. Now “hope” doesn’t mean that we are uncertain about something and hope it will happen. It means that we have a confident expectation that what God has promised will happen, and so we wait patiently and trust Him for its certain fulfillment.
6. There is no time or season when we are discharged from this diligent obedience to Christ that grows our hope in Him. And yet, hope is the dynamic force that keeps us persevering “until the end.”
7. As I’ve said many times before, the finish line in our Christian lives is heaven! And here we see that our perseverance in diligent obedience to Christ confirms and strengthens our assurance of salvation.
8. This is because as we see God changing us and our hope in Him growing we become more confident in God and that the promises of His Word are true.
B. Although saving faith is integral to assurance of salvation, we as believers can doubt that we are truly saved even when there are no good grounds for such tormenting thoughts. Since our assurance can wax and wane, we need to understand that assurance depends on three important truths.
1. First, the promises of God.
• This is most important of the three. God has clearly promised in His Word to preserve and keep us as His people until the end, so that we obtain final salvation. There are many passages, but here are a few:
• Jesus said in John 6:37: All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” (Verse 39) This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
• Every single person given to the Son by the Father will be preserved until the end! No one will be lost; no exceptions!
• He went on to say in John 10:27-29: My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will 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.”
• We are eternally secure in the hands of Jesus and the Father. No one can remove us from their saving grasp, not even ourselves!
• Paul declared in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” God promises to complete what He has started!
• 1 Peter 1:3-5: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
• We are to persevere in faithfulness to Christ to the end, but we can’t do this in our own strength and willpower. God promises that He will enable us to do this through His powerful grace.
• 1 John 5:11-13: And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
• God wants us to be confident and joyful in the certainty that we are eternally secure in Him.
• Jude 24: Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.
• God will not allow His people to fall prey to apostasy. He is able to guard, protect and keep us!
• (Rom. 8:29-30, 38-39; Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30; 2 Thess. 3:3; 2 Tim. 1:12)
• Now despite God’s clear promises in His Word of our eternal security and assurance of salvation, what torments believers most in this area and hinders them from moving forward in their Christian lives is listening to their conscience that often reminds them of sin and their feelings that often don’t “feel” right with God.
• I’ve told you before that when I was young I had such a difficult time not living by “my feelings” that I struggled deeply for years with the assurance of my salvation because I often didn’t “feel” saved. I understand how tormenting this can be!
• It was not until I fully understood that my salvation was based on the objective work of Jesus’ atoning death on the cross for me that freed me from God’s wrath and enabled me to stand clean and forgiven before God, and repented of listening to my subjective feelings, that I truly experienced freedom and God’s assurance.
• The Word of God is the final arbiter and authority. Since our faith rests on the promises of God, then we must see that any belief or feeling that contradict God’s truth is a lie and reject it.
2. Second, the fruit of the Spirit.
• As we have already seen, our assurance is confirmed and strengthened by our diligent obedience, which Holy Spirit works with and through to bring about transformation in our lives.
• We see examples of the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
• When these fruit of righteousness are in our lives they provide us with the assurance that our faith is genuine and that we are not deceiving ourselves about our relationship with Christ.
3. Third, the witness of the Spirit.
• Romans 8:16 says: For the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.
• This is the subjective assurance whereby the Spirit testifies in our hearts that God is our Father and we are His children. This begins with conversion and remains with us as we continue to live obediently to the Lord.
4. However, since assurance is not an abstract entity that is ours regardless of what we do, whenever we have unconfessed sin and disobedience in our lives we will not experience the Spirit’s fruit or His witness. This is why we can be truly eternally secure in Christ and have no sense of the assurance of our salvation. We need to repent!
5. This is why the author of Hebrews is alarmed at the indications that these Jewish believers have become sluggish in their commitment to God and His Word. He therefore exhorts them to persevere in diligent obedience to Christ.
C. Look at v. 12: so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
1. The great enemy of perseverance that threatens every believer is being “sluggish.” This was rendered “dull of hearing” in 5:11.
2. To be “sluggish” is to be slow, lazy, lethargic and apathetic. It is to have our passion and enthusiasm for Jesus Christ, His Word and His work dwindle in our lives.
3. It is to have “left your first love” as the believers at Ephesus did in Revelation 2:1-7. This is why the risen and glorified Christ rebuked them so severely and threatened to remove their lamp stand unless they repented.
4. Spiritual sluggishness is a danger in all of our lives and must be actively fought against. Just as friction will cause a train to or gravity will cause a plane to lose elevation unless both of them have a consistent source of power that overcomes those things, so the downward pull of sin will cause us to become spiritually sluggish unless we are continually depending on the Spirit of God and allowing Him to control our lives to be obedient to God.
5. The spiritually “sluggish” life, which is marked by immaturity and apathy must be forsaken. And the goal is to be a life of “faith and patience” that is focused on the promised eternal inheritance that is set before us.
6. Notice again that the author calls us to be “…imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” We are to live a life of “faith and patience” whereby we “inherit the promises” of final salvation.
7. Faith takes hold of the unseen and believes God promises to be one’s own, but it is always in danger of relaxing its hold. This is where patience comes in to tell faith how it needs to daily be renewed and find its strength in Christ, so that even when God’s promises tarry the soul is strengthened to hold firm to the end.
8. Therefore, if we are going to avoid the danger of becoming sluggish and apathetic in our Christian lives we must daily renew our faith in the Lord by surrendering afresh to Him and clinging to the promises of His Word. And continuing to do so with long-suffering patience even in the midst of the difficult circumstances and trails we face in our daily lives.
9. And to help us to do that, the author tells us to be “…imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” The word “imitators” is the word from which we get our English word “mimic,” which means to follow an example.
10. Whether these faithful believers lived in the past or are now living in the present, we are called to “imitate” or be like them in their faith and patience. Paul said to the Corinthian believers in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”
11. Who do you look up to in your life that is modeling for you a life of persevering faith and hopeful patience in the midst of the trials of life? Are you that kind of person for others to follow?
12. There are no more stirring examples than the “heroes of the faith” given to us in Hebrews 11 who based their lives on God’s unfelt promises, no matter how improbable they seemed to be. And even though they believed God’s promises, many never saw the fulfillment of these promises in their lifetime.
13. And as we follow their example of living obedient lives of “faith and patience” right now to one day “inherit the promises,” we too will have our assurance of salvation confirmed and strengthened in our lives.
In closing, if we have truly received Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord then on the authority of God’s Word and His promises we are eternally secure in Christ. And although God severely warns us to persevere in faithfulness to Christ to the end as a means to secure the final salvation He has promised, God wants us to have a firm confidence and assurance of our salvation right now in the present. Those of us who are “in Christ” need never to be afraid that we will lose our salvation.
But we are to nurture our assurance of salvation until Christ returns and our hope is realized. We do this in three practical ways:
1) Believe the promises of God, regardless of how we feel.
2) Diligently obey God’s Word and don’t be sluggish.
3) Imitate others faith and patience as they persevere in faithfulness to Christ to the end.
And as we do these things, we ourselves will become examples for others to imitate and follow to the glory of God.