KEEP PRESSING TOWARDS THE GOAL BECAUSE THE CERTAIN HOPE OF OBTAINING GOD’S PROMISES IS ANCHORED IN GOD’S OWN GUARANTEE
The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints might be seen as unsettling. How can I really know that my faith is genuine and that I will reach the goal and inherit the promises of God? God does not want us to live in fear and uncertainty. He wants His children to enjoy the security of His love and the sure hope of the realization of all of His precious promises. The writer of Hebrews is building off of the illustration from nature in the previous verses where fruitfulness is the indication of genuine life. He now applies this lesson in a way where he can encourage the Jewish believers in their local assembly that he things well of the majority of them in terms of their genuine spiritual life and therefore their ultimate spiritual destiny.
Deffinbaugh: our text puts the whole issue of perseverance into its proper perspective. Overall, the purpose of the author is to undergird the Hebrew Christians’ assurance and confidence in their confession of faith in Christ. Hebrews 5:11—6:20 is a bit of a digression, and much of this section emphasizes the believers’ responsibility to “be diligent to enter rest” (5:11), to “hold fast their confession” (5:14), and to “draw near to Jesus . . . to receive mercy and grace in their time of need” (5:16). And let us not overlook the author’s strong warning regarding falling away in 6:4-8.
One might wrongly conclude that the author is telling the reader that the believer’s endurance is totally their own doing. This would be turning from grace to works, the very thing the author strongly opposes. The concluding verses of this section – our text – give us the proper perspective: our security and our endurance are rooted in God’s changeless promises (covenants). These promises are fulfilled by the person and work of Jesus as our Great High Priest. It is God’s faithfulness that prompts the believer to cling to Him. Our trust is in God, not in our efforts.
Stedman: Having issued this warning, the pastor’s heart of the writer expresses reassurance and encouragement in Hebrews 6:9-12. Though some among them deserve his sobering caution, nevertheless he does not see them all in this dangerous state. It is clear that he sincerely believes that the larger part of his readers are truly saved and only need exhortation to diligence and patience. Their works of love and support to other believers strongly testify to their genuine faith, for as James declares, a faith that does not result in works is dead! . . . The only reliable sign of regeneration is a faith that does not fail and continues to the end of life.
I. (:9-12) ASSURANCE OF HOPE OF INHERITING THE PROMISES
A. (:9-10) Two Encouragements of Your Assurance of Hope:
1. (:9) Encouragement that God is Working Our Your Salvation in Your Inner Life
“But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you,
and things that accompany salvation,
though we are speaking in this way.”
“beloved” (or “my dear friends”) = tender form of address showing his pastoral concern
The visible fruit is evidence of the power of God operating within the inner spiritual life to perform the work of sanctification.
Richard Phillips: despite the warnings, he tells them he is not without encouragement for their spiritual condition; he is at least persuaded that theirs is a genuine and not a spurious faith. In verses 9 and 10 he gives two reasons for his confidence: first, what he believes about them, and second, what he knows about God.
John MacArthur: Many things accompany salvation. The entire fifth and six chapters of Romans (see notes Romans 5:1ff; Romans 6:1ff) are devoted to these accompaniments. But the particular ones mentioned in this section of Hebrews are those that contrast with the accompaniments of unbelief mentioned in Hebrews 5:11-6:5. For example, accompanying salvation is not infancy but maturity, not milk but solid food, not inexperience in righteousness but perfect righteousness, not repentance in dead works but repentance toward God unto life. The accompaniments of salvation are primarily positive, not negative. 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. They do not focus on the elementary truths of resurrection and judgment but on the believer’s blessed hope, not just on being enlightened but on being made new, not just on tasting salvation but feasting on it, not just partaking of the Holy Spirit but having Him indwell, not just getting a taste of God’s good word but of drinking and eating it, not just seeing God’s miracles but being one. These are the things that accompany salvation.
2. (:10) Encouragement that God Will Remember Your Fruitful Ministry Demonstrated in Your Outer Life
“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.”
This type of fruit would mark them as genuine believers
Kent: the passage does seem to rule out Jerusalem or Judea as the destination of the epistle, inasmuch as their early ministration (Acts 6) was soon curtailed by persecution and their subsequent poverty made them recipients of aid (Acts 13; 1 Cor. 16:1-3) rather than benefactors.
Hewitt: It was the grace and blessing of God which produced the good deeds, and not the good deeds the grace and blessing. Yet the manifestation of the good deeds is the evidence of the grace and blessing. Therefore any idea of merit must be ruled out.
F. F. Bruce: deeds of kindness done to the people of God are reckoned by God as done to Himself, and will surely receive their reward from Him.
Steven Cole: Love for God stemming from His love for us is the primary motive for all Christian service.
C. (:11-12) Two Exhortations to Persevere to the End to Inherit the Promises
1. (:11) Be Diligent
“And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence
so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end,”
Kent: “full assurance” (Col. 2:2; 1 Thess. 1:5; Heb. 6:11; 10:22) – It is a great aid to spiritual growth when the heart is fully persuaded that the Christian hope is a certainty.
R. Kent Hughes: the great enemy of perseverance is sloth or laziness – one of the seven deadly sins. The word behind “lazy” is an unusual term that means “sluggish” and was used earlier in 5:11 to describe those who were “slow to learn” – literally, “sluggish in the ears.” More often than not, sluggish ears go with a sluggish, lazy life. When the ear becomes dull, everything else follows suit. Spiritual sluggishness is a danger that looms over all of us if we do not work against it, for just as surely as friction will stop a train unless there is a consistent source of power, or as surely as a pendulum will settle to an inert hanging position unless the mainspring urges it on moment by moment, so will each of us wind down without an assertion of the will!
2. (:12) Imitate Good Christian Models
“that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those
who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Cf. Hebrews 11 and the many examples of faith to follow
Morris: Faith has a steadfastness about it that sees it through whatever difficulties present themselves.
II. (:13-20) ANCHOR OF THE SOUL BY VIRTUE OF GOD’S GUARANTEE
A. (:13-18) The Guarantee of Our Hope by the Promise of God
1. (:13-14) God Guaranteed His Promise to Abraham
“For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, ‘I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply you.’”
Richard Phillips: God’s oath made the promise solemn and inviolable.
F. F. Bruce: To our author Abraham was a significant figure, not only because of his faith in the promise of God, but also because of the part he plays in the story of Melchizedek.
2. (:15) God Obtained the Promise for Us
“And thus, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.”
R. Kent Hughes: they are to imitate the visionary faith and patience of Abraham. The writer knows that a God-dependent imitation will result in a God-aided ability to see the unseen and patiently seek the heavenly city in the sojourn below.
Richard Phillips: The point is that by persevering in the faith, despite great obstacles, and despite many causes for doubt and unbelief, Abraham received God’s promise. This is the encouragement the writer of Hebrews wants us to hear, using the example of Abraham.
3. (:16-18) God’s Guarantee is Far Greater Than Any Human Guarantee
a. (:16) Human Promises are Binding
“For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute.”
b. (:17) God’s Promises are Far More Unchangeable and Irrevocable
“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,”
Richard Phillips: God did not swear an oath to Abraham to make his purpose unchanging, but to let Abraham know with absolute certainty that it was so. This is an astonishing condescension from God.
c. (:18) God Wants Us to Have Sure Hope as our City of Refuge
“in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us.”
Kent: The two unchangeable things are the promise and the oath. The Scriptural principle of two witnesses for establishing legality underlies this argument. . . Believers are described under the figure of the Old Testament cities of refuge. Six of these were established in Israel, three on each side of Jordan, to provide protection against revenge for those who had slain someone accidentally (Num. 35:6, 9-32). As long as the refugee stayed within the appointed city, he was safe.
Mohler: Because God’s Word is true and it is impossible for him to lie, we have all the confidence in the world to take heart and trust God’s promises just as Abraham did. The faithfulness of God and the certainty of his promises are not theoretical propositions. They are unchangeable realities. Like Abraham, we can stake our lives on God’s promises because God is the One who has promised them. Our God is a promise-keeping God.
Lenski: Any of his readers who would turn away from Christ and revert to Judaism would thereby charge God with a double lie: that his promise does not mean what it says; that his oath is perjury. That very idea would be blasphemy. The matter is put so bluntly because the writer fears lest there remain in any of his readers “a wicked heart of unbelief” (3:12).
Piper: What God is saying in swearing by himself is that it is as unlikely that he will break his word of promise to bless us as it is that he will despise himself. God is the greatest value in the universe. There is nothing more valuable or wonderful than God. So God swears by God. And in doing that he says: I mean for you to have as much confidence in me as it is possible to have. For if more were possible, it says in verse 13, he would have given us that.
Deffinbaugh: [takes a different view] So just what are these “two unchangeable things”? Scholars do not all agree on this matter, so I will just tell you my opinion as to what these “two unchangeable things” are. I believe these two things are matters in which God has confirmed His promise with an oath, matters which are found nearby in Hebrews. And these would be the two promises which were confirmed by an oath: Heb. 6:13 and Heb. 7:20-22.
Thus, I believe that the two unchangeable things which the author of Hebrews has in mind are the Abrahamic Covenant (chapter 6), and His oath by which He appointed the Lord Jesus a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek (chapter 7). These two covenant promises are the basis for our salvation, sanctification, and eternal security. How much more secure could our salvation be?
B. (:19-20) The Security of Our Hope by the Advocacy of Jesus
1. (:19) Why Is It So Secure? – The Nature of Our Hope
a. Described as an Anchor of the Soul
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul,”
Be willing to bet the house on God
J. Ligon Duncan: The author of Hebrews wants this congregation to know that it is not an uncertain thing to bet the bank on God. It is not an uncertain thing to place all your trust in God. It is not an uncertain thing to trust in God your life, the most precious things that you have. There is nothing uncertain about that and God knows how frail we are and so he is ready even to swear those promises to us. And so the author of Hebrews points this to us.
Richard Phillips: Anchors are a clear and familiar image of security, yet there is something special about this anchor in Hebrews 6:19. Every other anchor goes down into the sea, but this one goes up into heaven. The anchor on a ship goes down beneath the waves to a place unseen to hold us secure, but this anchor of our hope goes up to a place where by faith we can see “into the inner place behind the curtain” (Heb. 6:19).
b. Described as both Sure and Steadfast
“a hope both sure and steadfast”
Piper: Recall Hebrews 3:6. The writer compared Christ to the maker and master of a house, and compared Christians to the house itself. Then he said, “Christ was faithful as a Son over his house whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” Note, it does not say that we will become his house if we hold fast to our hope. No, it says that we are (now!) his house if we (in the future) hold fast to our hope.
So holding fast is not the cause of our being Christ’s house, but the proof of it. Belonging to his as his new creation, and being owned by him because of his purchase and being indwelt by him as his home — all this secures our perseverance. It is not created by perseverance. The anchor of our souls is not a rope hanging in the air waiting for our weak hands to grasp and hold. That would be no security. The anchor of our soul is as solidly bound to us as it is to heaven.
c. Described as Grounded in the Very Presence of God
“and one which enters within the veil,”
2. (:20) Who Makes It So Secure? – The Focus of Our Hope
a. Jesus as our Forerunner
“where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us,”
Hewitt: He is the Christian’s link between the visible and invisible, and a certain pledge that one day the believer will also enter within the veil to share His eternal glory.
Richard Phillips: “Forerunner” is yet another of the nautical terms used in Hebrews. The particular word used here, prodromos, is one that appears nowhere else in Scripture, but has to do with a familiar scene in the ancient world. Louis Talbot explains:
The Greek harbors were often cut off from the sea by sandbars, over which the larger ships dared not pass till the full tide came in. Therefore, a lighter vessel, a “forerunner,” took the anchor and dropped it in the harbor. From that moment the ship was safe from the storm, although it had to wait for the tide, before it could enter the harbor. . . The entrance of the small vessel into the harbor, the forerunner, carrying the ship’s anchor, was the pledge that the ship would safely enter the harbor when the tide was full. And because Christ, our “forerunner,” has entered heaven itself, having torn asunder everything that separates the redeemed sinner from the very presence of God, He Himself is the Pledge that we, too, shall one day enter the harbor of our souls and the very presence of God, in the New Jerusalem.
b. Jesus as our Great Eternal High Priest
“having become a high priest forever
according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Kent: With the mention of the priestly order of Melchizedek, the author has come back to the point where he interrupted his discussion to begin the warning (5:10). Hoping to have counteracted their problem of sluggish hearing (5:11) by the previous encouragements, he resumes the main discussion.