Agonizomai: Heb 10: 36-39 - Christ - Our Gospel of Hope

Monday, March 15, 2010

Heb 10: 36-39 - Christ - Our Gospel of Hope

Heb 10 - 36-39 - Christ - Our Gospel of Hope

Heb 10:36-39 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

And here it is - the theme pulled together - the need for endurance as further evidence of the indwelling Christ. Christians have many graces which must be increasing. If they are not, then assurance will suffer and the evidence may eventually point to a prior false assurance. We must grow in grace through faith. And the writer has already admonished the Hebrews for their failure to study the deeper things, linking this failure to the present weak state of their faith. Endurance requires a deeper knowledge of God. Endurance also brings a deeper knowledge of God. In the first instance we must learn about Him - about what He has revealed Himself to be like - through the study of His word. This is required so that the providence that God brings into our life - the good and the bad things - may be understood as from His hand and received with love, joy and trust. This is the experiential side that brings an intimate personal knowledge of God - and not just knowledge about Him. But note that one leads to the other.

There can be no disconnect between knowledge of the Word and the personal experience of God. You can’t have one without the other. As Calvin said "The Spirit and the Word are the same" - by which He meant that they have the same objective and say the same thing, but through differing roles. If you would go deeper with God it cannot be absent a deeper knowledge of the Word. But, that said, a deeper knowledge of the Word does not, of itself, guarantee a more intimate knowledge of God. There can be no disconnect between theology and walk - between faith and practice - between the faith and faith - between knowledge and life.

The narrow way is narrow indeed, for we cannot manage or manipulate this integration. We must rely upon God and yet study and strive to be found in Him. It is a constant battle and a constant matter of refinement and adjustment. But it is God Who is adjusting us, even when we make the adjustments. It is like battering ourselves against the immoveable object of His perfection until we are utterly broken in pieces that can then be properly reassembled by Him.

The Hebrews, then, have need of endurance - for only those who endure to the end will be saved. But only those who are saved will endure to the end. And so the secret decree of God as to who is truly elect and the need for the experiential life of faith in Him exist side by side. Nevertheless, our assurance is not found in our performance, but in our trust in His performance. Though we are faithless, He remains faithful.

The loss of enthusiasm from which the Hebrews are suffering can also be traced to a loss of confidence in the imminent return of Christ. They had waited, they had suffered and they had endured for a time - but they had grown weary in well doing. Where was the promise of His coming? Their eyes had perhaps wandered from Him to themselves - from what He had done and would do to what they had been doing "in His Name." The seductions of the flesh are often subtle, and it does not take much for us to be distracted from the One True Object of our faith to earthly, carnal and self-attentive thoughts. The lesson for us all is to hold fast to the doctrine (yes doctrine) of the imminent return of Christ - but to hold that doctrine rightly. We are to expect and hope for His return at any time, but to be ready for it to happen in God’s timing alone. In just the same way we are to be ready and eager to die, but willing to stay.

So the writer quotes that Habakkuk verse that Paul cited, and that had such eye-opening effect upon Martin Luther - "The just shall live by faith." Here it is translated, "My righteous one shall live by faith..." And so He did. Christ my substitute lived a life of complete and utter dependence upon the Father and pleased God on my behalf - earning for me a righteousness I could never have earned. Now, like Him and by His grace, all true believers are to live by faith in the finished work - the imputed righteousness - of Christ. If they do so and endure to the end then they truly are God’s righteous ones (in Christ). But those that draw back (permanently) cannot be pleasing to God for it is impossible to please Him without faith - and by faith is meant "trust in His salvation". It is obvious when put this way that unless a person trusts God to both save and sanctify him he not only will not endure to the end, but he cannot endure to the end; absent faith in the free and gracious gift of God there is no salvation.

So once more we find the dire warning followed by encouragement. The benefit of the doubt, the expression of hope, the desire to think good of others tempers the warning to take a hard look at the reality of their fruit. There are inclusion, association and identification that make this not only hopeful, but intimate and loving; "But we are not of those that shrink back..." We aren’t pretenders or mere professors. We may be in need of admonishment and encouragement but we have the faith that is necessary for the endurance by which our souls will be preserved unto that Day. We have true regeneration witnessed to by the indwelling Holy Spirit. We have many who have gone through the same - and worse - by the power of the faith that comes from God, as we shall now see.


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